Amazing Tricked-Out Prosthetic Fakes How a Leg Really Works
When Hugh Herr was seventeen, he got trapped in a blizzard while ice-climbing the formidable Huntington Ravine on Mount Washington. He lost both his legs to frostbite and gangrene. But only 12 months later, Herr was climbing at the same level as before the accident—and with homemade prosthetics, his skills continued to improve. “I started to climb walls that no one had ever climbed before,” explains Herr. “Some of my colleagues actually threatened to cut their own legs off to achieve the same ‘unfair advantage as me.’”
In the first episode of Cyborg Nation, Herr—who is also head of the Biomechatronics research group at MIT Media Lab—explains the power of biomimetic design for prosthetics. His “bionic limb” is designed to mirror how a calf muscle actually functions; sensors facilitate neural reflexes, so a user can make a mechanical body part move with a thought, as in full-bodied movement. As Herr imagines it, through bionic appendages, machines increasingly will become a part of us, both rehabilitating and enhancing our natural abilities.
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