As they currently exist, prosthetic limbs are a pain to use. The majority of prosthetic legs supposedly aren’t much better than a wooden one, and using them has been compared to dragging along an unresponsive numbness. That might all be set to change here shortly, though, thanks to mind-controlled prosthetic limbs. Zac Vawter, a man that lost his leg due to a motorcycle accident, made history yesterday when he successfully climbed all 103 floors of Chicago’s Willis Tower with the help of his mind-controlled bionic leg.
Vawter’s $8 million dollar leg comes courtesy of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, which treated the event like a giant research project. Nothing like it has been achieved before, so the pressures that Vawter’s prosthetic saw were unprecedented. Of all the things that could have gone wrong, the worst would have seen Vawter tumbling down the stairs. The same can’t be said for other kinds of prosthetic limbs.
When Vawter pushes down on the leg, it pushes back like a regular leg might. All this is thanks to electrical impulses from his hamstring being read by the leg, meaning that he legitimately controls the leg with his mind. It may not be the first bionic limb, as there have been others with bionic arms that similarly could be controlled with the user’s mind, but it’s certainly one of the most promising cases.
For the time being, affordable versions of these prosthetic limbs are a long way off, but they just might be closer to reality than not.
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