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"Manhattan Project" For Prosthetic Arms

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the kinder-gentler-arms-race dept.

Medicine 76

cortex tips us to a story about a nationwide effort to incorporate advanced technology into the next generation of prosthetic arms. Researchers for the DARPA-funded project are developing feedback techniques that range from sensors on the surface of the user's skin to electrodes implanted on the inside of the user's skull that intercept and interpret signals from the motor cortex. Quoting: "'Think about taking a sip from a can of soda,' Harshbarger says. The complex neural feedback system connecting a native limb to its user lets that user ignore an entire series of complicated steps. The nervous system makes constant automatic adjustments to ensure, for example, that the tilt of the wrist adjusts to compensate for the changing fluid level inside the can. The action requires little to no attention. Not so for the wearer of current prosthetic arms, for whom the act of taking a sip of soda precludes any other activity. The wearer must first consciously direct the arm to extend it to the correct point in space, then switch modes to rotate the wrist into proper position. Then he must open the hand, close it to grasp the soda can (not so weakly as to drop it but not so hard as to crush it), switch modes to bend the elbow to correctly place the can in front of his mouth, rotate the wrist into position, and then concentrate on drinking from the can of soda without spilling it."

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FIRST PONY (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816468)

FIRST PONIES
always better the fist time

Obvious (5, Insightful)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816482)

Research into prosthetics always blooms during and after a war.
Of course it's a good thing for civil injuries too, but it's still a sad occasion.

Re:Obvious (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816928)

Prosthetics hide the visible damage, and make it somewhat possible to function again on a physical level. But where is the influx of money for treating alcoholism, drug abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, lack of sexual appetite leading to divorce, alienation from your children, nightmares, hypervigillence leading to domestic and public violence, inability to settle causing homelessness, random startle responses and inappropriate behaviour that means you can't hold down a job, birth defects, depression and suicidal thoughts?????? (the list goes on and on ... )

War is hell and the ones who don't die are left to die every single day for the rest of their (often short) lives.

Although weapons that are _designed_ to maim rather than kill are banned we still manufacture and deploy them. Any war nerd will tell you, its well known, strategically, that if you can disable a man he's better than a dead soldier, because he keeps costing the enemy for as long as he lives.

Things were better when we fought with swords and most people died on the battlefield or a few hours later from their wounds.

The "cost of war" totted up by the bean counters is an order of magnitude out. Every poor bastard coming back from Iraq and Afganistan is going to keep on costing us, in rehabilitation, therapy, drugs, crime, social disorder, lost productivity. That's without factoring in the non-quantifiable, emotional costs, and the fact that we now have millions of angry enemies hell-bent on revenge.

This misadventure has cost us more than we will ever realize. Our economies are in ruins and still our hopeless leaders are too proud to give up the greedy addiction to oil and power.

I'm sure these guys would wish they'd never been lied to and had real arms and legs. Stories that try to put a positive spin on the ineffable horrors make me sick.

An obvious travesty of moderation. (0, Offtopic)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817360)

The "cost of war" totted up by the bean counters is an order of magnitude out. Every poor bastard coming back from Iraq and Afganistan is going to keep on costing us, in rehabilitation, therapy, drugs, crime, social disorder, lost productivity. That's without factoring in the non-quantifiable, emotional costs, and the fact that we now have millions of angry enemies hell-bent on revenge.


Troll? Somebody modded the above post a TROLL? Are you fucking kidding me? This is one of the most sincere and insightful posts I've read having to do with the true costs of the Iraq War, and one of you turds decides the guy is being a troll? Unreal.

I'm sorry the poster chose to be an AC, because if I knew who he was, I'd try to thank him personally.

Re:An obvious travesty of moderation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22817534)

No, he is a troll. He's lying. There's a huge influx of money to treat PTSD. And, contrary to AC's hysterics, most folks don't suffer from these. I don't "die every single day". I live every single day. Yup, war is terrible. Yup, it takes a toll on people. Yup, some folks are weaker then others. We help them recover. And no, I don't "go on costing us, in rehabilitation, therapy, drugs, crime, social disorder, lost productivity". And no, "Although weapons that are _designed_ to maim rather than kill are banned we still manufacture and deploy them" is blatantly false. Half of the "designed to maim" bullshit you hear is a blatant misunderstanding of the Geneva conventions. Case in point? Why 5.56 vice 7.72 ammo? Because it's lighter. It has nothing to do with maiming people. It's lighter, so you can carry more. Helps that it's cheaper. AC is a troll, and nothing more.

Re:An obvious travesty of moderation. (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817704)

Is it not true though that our enemies IEDs and such are specificially designed to maim. And do you really think gulf war/gulf war II syndrome isn't real?

Re:An obvious travesty of moderation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22818136)

The reason I don't join the military is that I think I would enjoy killing people way too much. :(

It is sad, but they are using women and children to kill us. That's not fair. We can't tell who is a starving child, or a starving child that has a bomb that is going to blow it up inside the base.

So we need to kill everybody. It's not like they have done anything to improve the world over there.

Re:An obvious travesty of moderation. (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 6 years ago | (#22828266)

There's a huge influx of money to treat PTSD. Maybe you haven't noticed that Bush and McCain refuse to support a "GI Bill" for Iraq and Afghanistan vets. I've got news for you, the current administration is doing everything they can to screw veterans.

Did you know that severely wounded vets are coming back and their level of disability is being downgraded by the DOD so they don't have to pay benefits? A guy who's colon got chopped to bits by an IED and his spine partly shattered is being listed as having a "hernia".

Re:An obvious travesty of moderation. (0, Troll)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 6 years ago | (#22818332)

The post is a troll! Almost everything he stated in his post is factually incorrect. Despite the fact he is universally incorrect, the post does reflect popular perception. In turn, this popular perception is then hyped by media and fed back en mass who then feel validated and further feed the misinformed hysteria back into the ugly cycle. If I were wrong, media outlets (notice I didn't say news) like FOX wouldn't exist. People want to be validated, not informed. That's sad but true.

So while the statement is 100% troll, it is likely the author's intent was not to troll but rather to inform. If there was a "+1 Ignorant", it would likely be more accurate.

Re:An obvious travesty of moderation. (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819078)

I don't think it's a troll because the poster totally believes it. And I assume by "FOX" you mean Fox News-- unless you think that somehow the Simpsons have become a right-wing mouthpiece. Hmm... that doesn't seem to fit. Must be because you've bought into the Clintonesque "right-wing conspiracy" meme as well.

Re:An obvious travesty of moderation. (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821314)

The entire point of my message is he BELIEVES it is true despite the fact that it's completely false. Thusly, I suggested the use of a "+1 Ignorant" rather than "Troll" because it's much closer to reality. I then went on to explain why these types of popular myths come to be, which again, is factually supported (well, at least by both ratings and numerous studies). I then get rated troll and you proceed to imply I'm a nut case or simply been duped. WTF?

According to you, living with reality, dealing with facts, and presenting facts, makes people dupes and idiots. I might suggest you first re-read my post as you start off supporting the entire point of my post. That suggests you either misread, misunderstood, or are just plain out there.

Re:Obvious (1)

call-me-kenneth (1249496) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817396)

If only there were a programme to provide prosthetic nervous systems for the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have and will return from Iraq and Afghanistan physically OK, but mentally scarred for life. There's a gigantic PTSD time-bomb [google.com] that's going to be blowing up for decades to come in the form of alcholism, drug addiction, ruined families and wrecked lives. In 30 years' time they'll be able to start crunching the numbers on the number of vets who end up dying prematurely. That's the real cost of the war, far more than the 4000-odd who've died on active service.

Re:Obvious (0)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817600)

Oh Shut up with the political bickering on every topic... Yes there is a way and the government is not putting the appropriate resources into it. Look at anything that you think the government should or needs to handle... they are not putting enough resources into it... Stop Pining every message board and actually do something useful.

Re:Obvious (1)

Radical Moderate (563286) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822178)

Yeah, let's spend a trillion dollars sending soldiers to get their limbs blown off, then another mind boggling fortune to develop new limbs for them. I'm all for medical advances, but in this case prevention sure beats the cure.

soda can is a poor example (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816494)

straw anyone?

Re:soda can is a poor example (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816988)

I am a prosthetic mouth, you insensitive clod!

One heard saying... (4, Funny)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816506)

One recipient of a new prosthetic hand crushed his pewter goblet and proclaimed that the new prosthetic hand was "Groovy!"

Re:One heard saying... (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819108)

Ash had to be the greatest genius ever to create a hydraulic goblet-crushing prosthetic hand with middle-age technology.

Re:One heard saying... (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819450)

Well, he did have the opportunity to cannibalize less essential parts of his 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 for it. Still, that would put him ahead of MacGyver.

Thinking about your breathing (0, Offtopic)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816508)

You never think about it, but you are breathing all day long. Try to not think about. Try not to think about it when you are doing something like driving a car or looking at Slashdot.

It's amazing how our reflex actions are so natural that we can go a whole day without once thinking explicitly about what we are doing.

Like breathing.

Re:Thinking about your breathing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816932)

I wouldn't call it amazing. There is an enormous volume of nervous tissue throughout the body that controls these actions. From the brainstem and spinal cord to control breathing (or the cerebral cortex to take over voluntary control) to the cerebellum that gives us our great automatic sensory and motor control. It is no trivial endeavour to create a machine that can duplicate these actions. The soda drinking problem is a great example of the computational power that is needed to simply operate a limb normally.

It used to always amaze me how much of our brain was devoted to just signal processing and analysis versus the abstract thinking which seems to symbolize the modern view for which our brains were intended. But when you think about it computationally it is obvious. The ability to analyze complex environments with our senses and then being able to operate the mechanical systems in our body to respond to them in a useful form is a gargantuan task. Our best machines today can only do so in the most contrived situations.

Re:Thinking about your breathing (2, Interesting)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817698)

Another interesting thought on this is just how much the "subconscious" processes can still be learned. They are not fixed in stone - even remotely.

Watching my mother attempt to operate a mouse is a painful experience, but how many of us on Slashdot even think twice about the motor movements we make to move the cursor around, click on things and scroll up and down?

My mother has no prosthetic limbs, and has a good 25 years more experience than me in using her arms and hands for normal day to day tasks. On the very rare occasions she may operate a mouse, there's still a huge amount of it that is automatic and reflexive, despite the awkwardness that is visible. Now think how much would go in to a machine to emulate just her ability, let alone yours or mine.

Re:Thinking about your breathing (1)

Pearson (953531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863474)

Yeah, we set up one of our old computers for my grandmother, strictly for email. The poor dear was simply helpless with the mouse! She couldn't watch the cursor on screen, she had to watch the mouse itself, then look up to check how far the cursor had moved. We hoped some of the games help her get comfortable with the mouse, but she eventually gave up. Old dog, new tricks, etc.

It was eye-opening to realize just how massive a hurdle it was for her, when it is so natural for me.

Re:Thinking about your breathing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22817520)

You are now aware of your father's testicles.

Re:Thinking about your breathing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22819948)

Dude, that was such a bad analogy!

Ok... (1)

Joseph1337 (1146047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816534)

But still waiting for the full-blown Power Armor...

$30 million is not a "Manhattan project" (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816554)

Looks like the headline writers got carried away again. This only serves to diminish the issues that truly need a Manhattan Project-sized effort, like sustainable energy or reducing poverty. Now prosthetic organs would be a great achievement, but prosthetic limbs should be more of an intermediate step rather than a raison d'etre.

Interestingly enough, the CAPTCHA for this comment is "teller"

Congratulations, son! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816634)

Mobile Infantry made me the man I am today!

Dean Kamen spoke at TED about this (3, Informative)

LakeSolon (699033) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816670)

From the summary:

Inventor Dean Kamen previews the extraordinary prosthetic arm he's developing at the request of the Department of Defense, to help the 1,600 "kids" who've come back from Iraq without an arm (and the two dozen who've lost both arms). Kamen's commitment to using technology to solve problems, and his respect for the human spirit, have never been more clear than in this deeply moving clip.
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/82 [ted.com]

Re:Dean Kamen spoke at TED about this (2, Informative)

north.coaster (136450) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819196)

The online video of Kamen's talk is well worth watching. Dean is a smart guy, but even he didn't think that this was possible at first. Then he saw some of the existing technology and thought about the impact that an advanced prosthetic arm would have on these folks. Now he's one of the people making this happen.

While a prosthetic arm that allows more sensitive touch will have a positive impact on the folks who need this technology, it may also lead to spin offs in other areas. Anyone care to speculate on other uses for this technology?

"Manhattan Project?" (5, Funny)

Radium Eyes (1041164) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816678)

So it's an arms race, then?

Re:"Manhattan Project?" (1)

CptNerd (455084) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816852)

So it's an arms race, then?

They're just working to get a leg up on the competition.

Re:"Manhattan Project?" (2, Funny)

poena.dare (306891) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817090)

Once again it's nice to see /.ers have a firm grasp of the situation.

Re:"Manhattan Project?" (2, Funny)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817322)

Which is rare; slashdotters rarely have a leg to stand on in discussions like this.

Re:"Manhattan Project?" (2, Funny)

operagost (62405) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819124)

Would you guys get a grip already?

Re:"Manhattan Project?" (1)

AgentSmith (69695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819656)

Hardware handshaking takes on a whole new meaning!

I was going to type a whole wild ass screed about why these researchers are detecting electrical signals
instead of detecting neurotransmitter concentrations. I thought about it. They are trying to get
the whole package: Motion and feeling which involves some complex sensory feedback for the limb user.
Plus detecting neurotransmitter concentrations at any level and at any point in the body is more than a little nutty.

I just wonder if there couldn't be some joining yet between all these new "muscle like" artificial materials
and the signal detection interfaces. Although it might be more difficult to get feedback developed.
I keep falling into the trap of limb motion as a one shot deal. 1. I think. 2. There's a signal. 3. The muscle moves. But then
what? Not profit!
My brain needs the feedback to know that
--I'm not crushing the can
--My grip isn't too loose
--The angle is correct
--etc.

All the degree of motion questions which are the whole point and marvel of the article.
I'm sure this is obvious to the learned members of /., but for us average joes it takes some thought
to pry our minds from the bad science and psuedo science we see from the media.

But I can dream . . .
Possibly in a future time there might be a completely artificial limb with an artificial material slapped
onto a lightweight frame in blobs. These blobs contract like muscle groups through
signals of various frequencies and gains. A fluid is given an impulse that excites and dissipates its energy
to the muscle material which allows a contracted muscle to expand. Mind you, these muscle groups are encased in their
own separate fluid. Don't need to have your bicep expand without having your tricep contract.

Then let the marketing begin. New Nike legs! Now approved for the 2048 Olympics on Mons Olympus!

Now this is /. I'm curious to see how many holes are in that pipe dream.

Re:"Manhattan Project?" (1)

CptNerd (455084) | more than 6 years ago | (#22824118)

We do often go out on a limb...

Re:"Manhattan Project?" (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817544)

Thats the bomb!

Re:"Manhattan Project?" (1)

blindd0t (855876) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817862)

I always thought the next generation of prosthetic arms would allow you to store up so much energy, your entire body would appear to blink and make a weird noise. You could then release that energy toward any given direction. Also, you should have a rapid-fire button built into the arm. We would call this the mega-buster.

Re:"Manhattan Project?" (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822842)

So it's an arms race, then?
And these must be nuclear arms, right?

More inputs (0, Redundant)

AnotherBrian (319405) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816722)

I think the only thing we really need to do to improve the arms is creating more inputs. You could have the equivalent of a switch(that senses muscle signals) placed on different parts of the body that would be connected directly to the different motors. You wouldn't need any fancy computer to read brain signals to determine that the user wants pick up a glass and calculate the necessary movements to do this. I think of this like the controls on heavy machinery. The levers directly control the cylinders, and even though they may have little relationship to the actual direction of movement of the end effector, people can operate them effectively. I know this was my experience after a couple of hours using a mini excavator (which is super fun BTW). You don't even think about it anymore. It feels like the machine is part of your body and it just does what you want it to.

I'm thinking of something like a series of pads on the leg muscles like the ones they use now on the shoulder that can tell basic gross signals like raising and lowering the shoulder to open or close the claw. One for each motor. They would normally be off, but turned on when the use wanted to move his arm. The only draw back I see with this is that marathon runners trying to drink during the race could have unpredictable results.

Re:More inputs (1)

Alarindris (1253418) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816930)

I disagree. Generally, to use a motorized limb it takes training. The electrode doesn't just read "he wants to take a drink", that's just not possible yet. What is really happening is that the electrode is sensitive to certain frequencies; for example more activity in the xHz-yHz lvl makes the hand open and less activity in the xHhz-yHz lvl makes the hand close. You don't just think about doing it, it requires training to figure out how to move it. I'm reminded of a show I saw about it where a guy described thinking about tense thoughts, like crushing a can or kicking something as opposed to thinking about laying on a bed or floating on a raft to change his "frequencies" to use a function of his limb. Adding more inputs I think would make it even harder until we can figure out how to read thoughts.

"Nanarchy" (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819792)

Kryten: Right, now this is a copy of the standard model from the 21st century. Er, comfortable, sir?
Lister: It's fine, yeah.
Kryten: Okay, now let's recap: the limb is connected to neurons which run up to the left hemisphere of your brain, which controls the right side of your body. Now, all you have to do is merely command the arm to do something, and it obeys. Now, let's practice. Right, concentrate, sir. I want you to think: "Arm: pick up the ball."
Lister: Okay.
Kryten: Now just think: "I will pick up the ball."
Lister: I will pick up the ball.
Kryten: That's right, good, now, concentrate.
Lister: I will pick up the ball.
Kryten: Okay, now really think: Hand, pick up the ball. That's right, that's right. Hand, pick up the ball. Hand, pick up the ball! That's right, now keep going, sir! Pick up the ball! Now, focus down onto that and keep the thought, sir! Hand, pick up the ball!

[As Kryten offers verbal support in ever increasing volume, Lister strains and grunts, effort twisting his facial features as the hand lies motionless.]

Kryten: That's right, sir, now keep going, now really think, now. Hand, pick up the ball! Now let's really get it going, sir! Pick up the ball! Pick up the ball! Really start to go now, sir! Hand, pick up the ball, now let's keep moving! Keep on, sir, you can do it! HAND, PICK UP THE BALL! YOU'RE GOING TO MOVE THAT HAND, SIR! YOU'RE GOING TO MOVE IT! MOVE THE HAND, SIR!! HAND! PICK UP THE BALL!! PICK UP THE BALL!! YES SIR! YES! WE'RE STARTING TO MOVE, NOW! YES! IT'S DEFINITELY MOVING, SIR! YES!! Oh! Bravo, sir!!

[Kryten tails off as Lister successfully moves the hand from its resting place to grab the ball which has sat motionless, three or four inches away from where he started.]

Lister: Oh! The sweat's dripping off me!
Kryten: Oh, that was fantastic, sir! Absolutely marvelous, it worked like a dream!
Lister: [incredulous] Is that it?
Kryten: Well, er, how do you mean, sir?
Lister: Is that the best it works??
Kryten: In what way?
Lister: If I want to pick up a ball, am I going to have to take the morning off?
Kryten: It was a tad slow, I'm forced to admit.
Lister: A tad? The only thing I've ever seen pick up slower is Rimmer in a disco.
Kryten: Well, maybe if I adjust the impulse valve it might make it a little more sensitive. [makes adjustment] Okay, let's try again: "Hand, pick up the ball."
Lister: Okay... hand, pick up, the ball.

[Lister's arm shoots forward and clangs across Kryten's inattentive jaw]

Kryten: Okay... right... well, er, let's try again.

[Kryten takes a position to the side of the arm.]

Lister: Okay?
Kryten: Now: "Hand, pick up the ball."
Lister: Hand, pick up the ball.

[The arm flings itself out sideways and cracks Kryten again]

Kryten: I think, sir, there's a lot of anger inside you, and that's what's driving the arm.
Lister: I don't feel angry.
Kryten: Well, you've lost your arm, sir; you've every right to feel angry.
Lister: I don't! I promise, I don't!
Kryten: Ah well, you see, it's subconscious. You're thinking, "Hand, pick up the ball," but your subconscious is saying, "Punch Kryten in the head; beat the brains out of the demented droid that cut off my beloved arm." Am I right?
Lister: Kryten, that's rubbish!

[Again the arm shoots Kryten-wards, sending the droid reeling]

Lister: You're right! It's controlled by my subconscious!
Kryten: It's far too dangerous to let you out with that arm, sir. Two minutes with Miss Kochanski and who knows what you'd be swinging around your head!

Re:More inputs (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817036)

No, it doesn't work well for the arm, either. The problem is that the electrical signals on the skin are very, very noisy, and filtering it enough to get a readable signal introduces a phase delay of at least 100 msec. There are still no good implantable electrodes to tap the nerves directly, and without that, you may as well control it with physical muscle movements.

Firs7!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816938)

Hmmm. Dr. Octopus? (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817022)

I wonder, DARPA is doing a lot of work on doing neural interfaces, as well. It would be interesting if this could be combined to give a person more arms, esp if just temporary (say a 1 year stint). In addition, I would think that all this work on arms for ppl, will apply to pure robotics.

Re:Hmmm. Dr. Octopus? (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817146)

I'm left handed. An arm nearly as dextrous as my left... that would be *really* useful. My right... about the only thing I can really do with it is type and hold things still. Having another one of those wouldn't be all that useful.

Re:Hmmm. Dr. Octopus? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817198)

I was not suggesting this a replacements, but as extras. If you are in the field in iraq/afghastan (or wherever our next war is at), you would find 6 extra arms EXTREMELY useful. Esp. if they have a bit of intelligence in each. Heck, the ability to equip one or 2 arms with a gun or perhaps a laser would be awesome.

Re:Hmmm. Dr. Octopus? (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817436)

I understood your point. And I was thinking another arm as dextrous as my right arm would be mostly useless. However another nearly as dextrous as my left would be really useful and useful in more mundane situations... in the lab running experiments or soldering circuit boards. I'd be really, really, really happy with a set of fully functional micro-prosthesis (Well described in the short story 'Burning Chrome by William Gibson as 'Waldos')... provided I did not have to sacrifice my existing arms!

I have to confess I wouldn't be so interested in weaponry.

Re:Hmmm. Dr. Octopus? (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817614)

Personally, I am not interested in the extra arm. But, if I were serving, I would like to have every advantage that I can. And considering that this is the US DOD that is funding it, they will probably consider similar ideas.

As to you last line, I am not sure how old you are, but typically as you get older your POV will change. When I was 18, I signed up for ROTC so that I could fly. My father (a decorated air force pilot and then airline pilot) talked me out of it. How? He told me to get the air force to give me a letter guaranteeing flight, since they said it verbally (this was '77; post 'nam; yeah yeah, old). Needless to say, that did not happen. Since then, I have worked on various DOD projects. In the first, the grant was for interesting biologicals research that we designed to be defensive in nature. As time went on, we realized that it was actually weaponry that we were developing (DOD had other intentions based on how they were changing our protocols). As a young man, I thought that it was abhorrent and left the project. Now, as I watch China's military building up, I know that the work that I was doing actually could make a difference. The reason is that Chinese leaders are gearing up for a war. The problem is that they have MANY times the troops levels that we have. The major thing that holds them in check is that they KNOW we have a very high tech advantage. But with their continuing theft of our military secrets and W. having tied us up in Iraq, combined with our monster growing deficits, it is only a matter of time before they are equal to us (from the chinese leaders POV). Sadly, when dictatorships or monoarchies feel threatened inside of the country, they will either collapse (like USSR), attack their ppl (Tiananmen), or attack other nations (which is what most countries do). I think that unlike the USSR, china will consider the later. If it cames down to our work being used, or a nuke, than I would want our work used. Far, far, far less damaging, but would be just as effective on a battlefield. SO why the long boring story? I am suggesting is that while you might not be interested in the military, as time goes on, you might change your mind. More so, if you have family out there.

Re:Hmmm. Dr. Octopus? (2, Informative)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821502)

As time went on, we realized that it was actually weaponry that we were developing (DOD had other intentions based on how they were changing our protocols). As a young man, I thought that it was abhorrent and left the project. Now, as I watch China's military building up, I know that the work that I was doing actually could make a difference. The reason is that Chinese leaders are gearing up for a war. The problem is that they have MANY times the troops levels that we have. The major thing that holds them in check is that they KNOW we have a very high tech advantage. But with their continuing theft of our military secrets and W. having tied us up in Iraq, combined with our monster growing deficits, it is only a matter of time before they are equal to us (from the chinese leaders POV).

The difference you made could have been simply designing more technology to fall into China's hands, too. Look, we know China might get a little anxious about putting down its immediate neighbors, but they won't be going to war with us. In fact, war between the United States and China is nearly impossible, since neither side can afford it. Wars between superpowers across oceans are expensive and protracted by nature, which means a robust economy is required. If China starts a war, they will lose trade with America and with nearly all of Europe as well (due to NATO treaty obligations), leaving them incapable of continuing to fight. We will be hurt too, and a worldwide depression would likely ensue, but China would be crippled.

If the US starts the war or even suffers an attack from China, China could immediately release all its American currency, flooding the world market and causing hyperinflation, which would economically cripple the United States if not the entire world. Again, in the long run, no one will be able to afford continuing the war. On the other hand, were China to do so, they would cripple their own currency as well: even in a shooting war, releasing all their American currency would only be a last-ditch effort to let their own massive army wipe out an American landing, or something similar.

Even setting that aside, China's military means nothing without naval power that rivals our own. The US Navy (with NATO support undoubtedly, particularly from the Royal Navy) could undoubtedly blockade China completely.

Re:Hmmm. Dr. Octopus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22818388)

I find all of this very interesting. I just started thinking about the possibility of these limbs being remote from the user. It seems like this would be useful for remote surgery. Actually, there are all sorts of possibilities for this technology. I'm quickly slipping into the realm of science fiction, with visions of mech-warriors and other applications. It is all very fun to imagine.

Re:Hmmm. Dr. Octopus? (1)

Ledgem (801924) | more than 6 years ago | (#22826820)

That's a really neat idea. I'd imagine that it'd take people time to get used to it (and some probably would never become proficient with controlling it effectively, if at all) but that'd be very useful. Can you imagine how weird it'd feel to use it for even a few months and suddenly not have it anymore, though?

WMD (1)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817100)

Ah, yes, Mantrid arms [wikipedia.org] , weapons of mass destruction.

For as long as... (1)

laejoh (648921) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817292)

Prostetnic won't use his arms to write poetry I'm not scared!

From wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :

Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz is sadistic, even by Vogon standards. When not shouting at or executing members of his own crew for insubordination, Jeltz enjoys torturing hitchhikers on board his ship by reading his poetry at them, then having them thrown out of an airlock into open space.

Don't stand in the way of skynet (1)

DavidV (167283) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817338)

I am missing my left hand....long story. This is great, now when they are in my price range (if I'm still alive) and I get one, I can crush the skull of anyone who kept the price high in my cyborg hand.

Re:Don't stand in the way of skynet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22817642)

I am missing my left hand....long story.
It's okay, we've seen "Evil Dead 2"!

I'd like some extra limbs as well please. (1)

Machine9 (627913) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817402)

Yeah, my right hand is pretty much useless due to a birth defect, so I'm always interested in the development of alternatives ;)

But what I'd REALLY like is some mechadendrites, WH40K Mechanicus style!

Praise the omnissiah!

Compulsory Wiki link for the confused: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adeptus_Mechanicus [wikipedia.org]

Why Prosthetic Arms? (1)

phoenixjim (1259994) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817512)

I'd imagine that soldiers with stronger, faster limbs and such would be an advantage...
But personally, if I were to lose a limb, I'd be much happier with something that both resembled and worked as the old one did.

Since we can now replace things like knee and hip joints, and since the structure (as opposed to the additional functions) of the bone is well understood, I see no reason why artificial "bones" can't be designed to replace the damaged or missing ones. Then, with tissue grafting (fairly well established) and culturing (starting to be used), and therapy, normal function (and generally normal appearance) could be achieved.

I think this would be a better accomplishment overall...

A better solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22817836)

How about not going into those idiotic wars that people lose their arms in?

Interesting (1)

Freeside1 (1140901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22817900)

The action requires little to no attention. Not so for the wearer of current prosthetic arms, for whom the act of taking a sip of soda precludes any other activity...
A much cheaper invention that solves this problem comes to mind.... a straw.

Manhatten II (1)

Edward Ka-Spel (779129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22818000)

Great NEWS!

The "Manhattan Project" for prosthetics is just what we need. We MUST get those prosthetic arms before the Nazis do. Let's send every prosthetic scientist in the country to the middle of nowhere New Mexico. We must have utmost secrecy on this so no one knows what we are doing. Our country's security depends on this. Only when it is perfected can we drop this on an unknowing Baghdad and win the war in one quick stroke, preventing a long, drawn out invasion of Iraq.

(When analogies go bad, next on Fox)

"one quick stroke" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22819960)

One quick stroke with a prosthetic arm? Sounds dangerous to me.

new manhattan project? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22818048)

needs more hungarians.

bullshit! (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 6 years ago | (#22818200)

a small child doesn't adjust cup while drinking, they'll spill if they're not using a lidded training cup. The brain has to learn to do those complicated automatic adjustments and it takes a very long time. so that can be true for prosthetic limbs too, if it takes a year to learn how to properly control one to drink from a glass without conscious effort that's still a much shorter time than it took us to learn with natural limbs! putting such automatic features into an artificial limb could very well be a mistake, let the brain learn to handle that.

So... (1)

Sobieski (1032500) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819358)

Are they nuclear arms?

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22822378)

You can't hug with nuclear arms.

After they get done with arms and hands? (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819934)

When will they begin work on whole prosthetic bodies?

Shirow promised us a cyberpunk future, and I want my moon base too!!!

But how long does it take? (1)

neonfrog (442362) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820852)

The complicated series of maneuvers in the summary is challenging for a 2-year old as well, and takes months or years to perfect. The smoothness of the activity to an adult is based upon years of practice. I mention this because the article doesn't seem to mention that even with a bijillion sensors (even tied directly into the brain stem) and lots of axis/control that the learning curve would be shortened.

A well-trained backhoe operator can do amazing things whereas a newbie would be hard-pressed to deal with one axis at a time.

I think the methods they talk about are great, and there must be a need for better bio-feedback or they wouldn't be doing it, but I would love to see a discussion about how older tech takes X years to master and newer takes Y. I wonder if they'll be different? Not that it matters to a person with this need - they'd want the one that givers them the most sensations.

Prosthetics experience at VA (1)

Anthony_Mitchell (802541) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821538)

Going to a VA hospital can be hard for some people because it can bring back painful feelings about their military experiences. The staff and volunteers at VA hospitals are careful about creating a safe atmosphere. Last week I was back in the prosthetics department at the Seattle VA hospital to be fitted for a brace. The place is cramped. The narrow hallway makes it tricky to maneuver gurneys in and out of the fitting rooms. The place is in a basement. The patients there have lost more than those that one usually sees in other departments. Not just body parts, but they also seem to be more bereft of social support and spouses than elsewhere. This puts a higher psychological workload on staff. It's hard to put into words the appreciation due to the people who work in the prosthetics field at the VA. But I'll try. Thank you.

Think about taking a sip from a can of soda (1)

jaeson (563206) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821684)

Cant they just use a straw and one of those beer-can hats or something?

Battery Power? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22822998)

I'm curious how they will power these prosthetics. "Hay guys brb gotta recharge my batteries" Or "Sorry wife, I ran out of juice"

Soda can a bad metaphor (1)

Geminii (954348) | more than 6 years ago | (#22917166)

The whole idea about dropping the can isn't very good at all - if the arm can raise the can an inch off the surface, the little finger can be swung under the can to stop it falling out of the grip.

It's just an excuse for the current set of control systems not being able to handle movements for all five digits in real time.
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