It used to be that you could only find the bionic man or woman in science fiction. Biomedical engineers are changing that. Listen to the podcast.
If you wanted to see bionic arms or legs in action, you used to have to look back to 1970s television shows or Star Wars movies. Now, those fantasies are moving off the screen and into real life.
Claudia Mitchel lost her arm at the shoulder in a motorcycle accident, and is now using a computer-controlled, electric-powered arm to do almost everything her biological arm could do. Peel and eat a piece of fruit. Fold clothes. Even wash the dishes. And maybe best of all, all she has to do is think about what she wants to do, and it happens.
It works like this. Doctors moved the ends of the nerves that used to connect to her mangled arm to her chest. Electrodes on a harness detect tiny electric signals from those nerves and transmit them to a miniature computer. The computer translates them into signals that control small electric motors in her new arm and hand. When she wants to pick up an apple from the kitchen table, she thinks it and her arm, hand and fingers do it.
One problem: the arm and hand have no sense of touch. But everything else seems to be working fine.
Our arm isn't computer controlled, but it's still time to close the mike and leave. See you next time.
Engineering Works! is made possible by Texas A&M Engineering and produced by KAMU-FM in College Station. Learn more about engineering.