Dean Kamen was wearing and demonstrating this arm on, of all places, The Colbert Report last night. Pretty neat, though it seemed to be slow.
The problem handed to Dean was to develop a prosthetic device which would allow a amputee to pick up, without damaging, and eat a grape or raisin.
The showed videos of a veteran doing exactly that after about 10hrs practice with the arm. It also showed him successfully eating with chop sticks. His wife made the comment that that was the first time he had fed himself in 20yrs.
Speed is probably a problem of power, the motors/gears would have to be larger and then batteries would have to be large or limited life.
I can see that for an amputee having something that looks like a 'real' hand might be important but copying a human hand/arm then using motors and gears as the engineer in the clip described isn't necessarily the best solution if you want speed.
Compare a ABB flexpicker robot to a traditional 3axis robot arm
Safety may be an issue as well. The legs don't seem to have any problems with speed. In fact the one person interviewed said the legs can move faster than what he can control.
As an independent contractor, the liability concerns make me cringe with horror.
At the least, one might expect a few bloody noses.
Thats an issue with anything medical
I have a friend that is working on power-assisted wheelchairs.
At the moment you have a choice between pushing yourself or a heavy expensive fully motorized Stephen Hawking job. What most younger/active disabled people want is an add-on to their existing chair for a bit of help on kerbs, ramps, hills etc.
The system they have come up with is a set of modules that you can add to any chair and use which parts you want. Sensors to detect how hard you are pushing and back off the motors, hill descent control that acts to slow you on a downslope without using the wheel brakes, tilt sensors that detect you climbing curves etc.
Then they hit the FDA. They would basically have to certify every component (processor chips, the uC kernel, the accelerometers, batteries) for medical use themselves.
They considered simply putting all the source code and schematics on a web site anonymously or only selling this in 3rd world countries.
It would be ironic if US veterans had to go to India or Pakistan to be fitted with American technology replacement limbs.
They are lobbying for a 'not-for-profit' exemption law which would mean you could publish a how-to build these things for yourself without the publisher being liable.
It's all fun and games until somebody gets an eye poked out.
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