For The Wall Street Journal's ninth annual technology innovation awards, editor Michael Totty reviewed nearly 500 entries and, with a team of judges, weighed which of the top 180 were the most groundbreaking and which were most likely to prove useful during economic hardship. The top two awards both went to medical technologies, besting energy-efficient next-generation LEDs and paper-thin flexible speakers. Affordable health tech seems to have impressed the judges as its own sort of innovation.
One of the best things about this job is getting to share stories that are often totally friggin' awesome. This is one of those stories.
It doesn't start happily, though. Motala is a 48-year old former working elephant from Thailand (she moved large trees for a living). In 1999, while wandering in the forest looking for food on her lunch break, she accidentally stepped on a land mine left over from the Burmese-Thai war. The mine destroyed her left front foot and most of the leg.
Though her owners tried to save the leg, it was eventually amputated below the knee. In 2006, she got a temporary prothesis to help her learn to walk on what would be a more permanent artificial leg.
This week, Motala was fitted for that leg in Thailand, according to the conservation group Friends of the Asian Elephant. It's a state-of-the-art upgrade to the temporary prothesis she's had for the last three years. Early reports show she's taking to it well, which is fantastic (watch the video after the jump). Here's hoping Motala lives a normal, long life in her retirement. … Read more
In March, former Marine corporal Josh Maloney became the first Iraq war veteran and only the sixth American to receive a human hand, transplanted from an organ donor.
"He wanted to touch," said Patty Maloney, his mother. "He wanted to be able to feel again."
Four months later, the hand is actually starting to work.
"I can feel the soft touch up to there," he said. "I can feel hot and cold."
When Americans are wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq, no expense is spared to save their lives. But once they're home, if they have suffered an amputation of their arm, they usually end up wearing an artificial limb that hasn't changed much since World War II.
In all the wonders of modern medicine, building a robotic arm with a fully functioning hand has not been remotely possible.
This is a story about Jerry Jalava, a Finnish software developer who lost part of his finger in a motorcycle accident last July. According to his friend, Henri Bergius, when the surgeon assigned to work on Jalava's prosthetic finger discovered his hacking history, he made a clever suggestion: incorporate a USB key into the new digit.
When Jalava needs the drive, he simply pulls it off his … Read more
Good: double amputee gets prosthetic legs so she can walk. Better: double amputee gets realistic-looking mermaid tail so she can swim. Awesome: it's developed and built by Weta, the special-effects company that did work for the "Lord of the Rings" movies, as well as "King Kong" and "The Chronicles of Narnia" series.
Nadya Vessey's legs were amputated below the knee when she was a child due to illness. At one point, reports Stuff, a child asked her what happened to her legs and she told him she was a mermaid. The idea … Read more
Some argue that open source only works in large markets. One Iraq veteran begs to differ.
In a fascinating article in the most recent Scientific American, Iraq veteran Jonathan Kuniholm describes how his Open Prosthetics Project (OPP) is using open-source methodologies to bring enhanced prosthetics for a market that may only number 100,000 people. The goal? Invite amputees and other interested onlookers to "pimp my arm."
In fact, given the small size of the target market, it may be that an open-source approach is the only credible way to proceed, as Kuniholm notes:The reality is that … Read more
CARLSBAD, Calif.--Segway inventor Dean Kamen plans to show off one of his latest inventions at the D: All Things Digital conference on Thursday. Kamen, who has done much work in the medical field, will reveal a new kind of artificial arm that he says is vastly superior to existing prosthetics.
In a brief interview on Wednesday, Kamen told me what separates this new limb from past efforts is the depth of motion that it can offer. With just two days of training, said Kamen, the founder of Deka Research and Development, a soldier who lost both arms in Iraq … Read more
Scientists at Vanderbilt University have adapted a miniaturized rocket motor from space to power a stronger, faster prosthetic arm here on Earth.
Actually, the power is generated by what amounts to an advanced steam engine. It contains hydrogen peroxide and a catalyst that causes it to burn at 450 fahrenheit, producing steam. NASA uses the same principle to scoot the space shuttle around in orbit.
It's "roughly the size of a pencil" and provides enough energy to operate the prosthetic for up to 18 hours. The prototype arm also weighs less because the motor eliminates the need … Read more
They're no Lee Majors, but thanks to groundbreaking work in prosthetics, some people with missing limbs are becoming (at least partially) bionic. Earlier today, sister site CNET News.com took a look at two devices that are helping get amputees back on their feet and into the kitchen, office, and even the shooting range.
Yesterday, Scottish company Touch Bionics announced its i-Limb Hand, which ushers in the next generation of prosthetic hands. The i-Limb Hand uses individual motors in each finger, so people wearing it can move fingers independently of each other. It's also got pressure sensitivity, so … Read more