Technology is amazing. We live in a world where an unforeseen tragedy like losing a limb no longer means you permanently lose complete function of that now missing extremity. Bionics has opened up a plethora of doors not only for the IT world but for healthcare as well.
Artificial limbs are no new concept. They have been used since 600 BC in much simpler forms such as wooden legs or metal arms. While these limbs were not what you would consider “user-friendly”, often uncomfortable, difficult to use, and unattractive (cosmetically speaking) they did give the use some form of movement.
Researchers in the biomechatronic field are currently attempting to develop more life-like bionics. These limbs are not only lighter and smaller but incorporate more advanced technology in order to integrate these mechanical devices with biological organisms like human muscles, bones, and the central nervous system.
The purpose behind bionics is not to give the user a superhuman advantage, as many people assume. It is to simply recreate the normal functionality of that lost limb. This comes with many obstacles. If you consider how much detail is involved with any basic movement you would recognize just how difficult creating a bionic limb to repeat any movement from any part of your body actually is. It all starts with our nervous system sending electrical impulses from your brain to your extremities and vice versa. Recreating this natural occurrence is no easy feat.
However, researchers are currently overcoming these obstacles with the emergence of mind-controlled bionic limbs, which integrate prosthetics and body tissues, including the nervous system. These highly advanced bionic limbs are able to receive commands from the nervous system which allows the robotic limb to closely replicate normal moment in a more fluent manner. Some patients who have undergone the procedures necessary to obtain these mind control bionic limbs have also found that they can not only move their new prosthetic but they can also feel sensations with them too.
Although scientists have already made amazing headway in the area of bionics, there is still a long way to go. “I think we are just getting started.” Revolutionizing Prosthetics Principal Investigator Michael McLoughlin states, “There is just a tremendous amount of potential ahead of us. I think the next five to ten years we are going to bring phenomenal advancement.” Based on how far science has come in this short amount of time, there is no questioning whether or not bionic limbs will be able to achieve full range of motion, control, and even sensation that has been lost due to an amputated limb.
Bionics has literally saved lives through artificial organs and has vastly improved the lives of many amputees who never dreamed they would be able to replace their missing limbs with well-functioning bionics. This fantastic science is constantly evolving. There are already many different types of bionic limb technology available currently. Years down the road it is not far-fetched to predict that robotic limbs will be indistinguishable from natural limbs.