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Tag Archive: cybernetic technology


Four artists are helping a UK company’s bionic arms become the functioning hands of many with the benefit of stylish designs.  Open Bionics is an entrepreneurial company that has created and fitted hundreds with its advanced, multi-grip bionic arms since their release this April.  Called the Hero Arm,  it’s the next step toward true borg technology and it’s been called a game-changer in health technology alongside genome sequencing, Fitbit, and smartphones.  From kids as young as nine years old who haven’t had arms and hands since birth to amputees of all ages, the 3D printed devices go beyond prosthetics of the past.  With the slogan “We turn disabilities into superpowers,” the company is doing that in more ways than one.  Instead of making the arms look like real arms, they are adding eye-popping designs–a feature praised by their users, who have remarked, “This is a cool way to stand out for all the right reasons.”  Instead of asking “what happened to your hand?” those seeing the Hero Arm on a person for the first time ask “how does that work?”  “Can we shake hands, can we do a fist bump, can I have a photo?”  The difference is a big one for wearers.

Open Bionics boasts the Hero Arm as “the first medically approved 3D printed arm.”  The Hero Arm is a lightweight, powered bionic hand controlled by the wearer’s muscles.  Because muscles generate small electrical signals when they contract, electrodes placed on the surface of the skin can measure muscle movements.  A full suite of tools provides feedback to the user, including posable wrist, posable thumb, and a freeze mode (for use when holding something like a glass), plus proportional control for varying tasks.  Comfortable, adjustable and breathable, the arm can lift more than 15 pounds of weight.  According to the company, the Hero Arm is half the price of its closest competitor.  Still, Open Bionics has stated that it has received donations to be able to provide free Hero Arms for qualifying children residing in the UK–the only place the bionic arms have been approved for sale.  They aren’t covered by the nation’s healthcare system yet and can cost about U.S. $2,500 on up.  Compare that to similar functioning U.S. electrical prosthetics with a cost upward of $50,000 to $100,000, and anyone can see why this product looks like the future of cybernetics.  (You can help a woman get her own Hero Arm via crowdfunding.  Learn more about her story below).

Hero Arms can also be worn with swappable custom covers.  And now Open Bionics has four new styles for wearers to get a Hero Arm that best fits their personality.  Each work shown (above, top, in order), was designed by an artist in Bristol: “Handala” by Daniel Bowler, “Tree Rex” by TRex, “Palette of Patterns” by J West, “Nebular” by Cheba, and “Open Bionics Doodles” by Kid Crayon.  Even more covers are available for the Hero Arm, like the futuristic Deux Ex design (above).  The Deus Ex video games explore human augmentation in a near future world.  Open Bionics partnered with Eidos Montreal, basing the Deux Ex cover on the game’s protagonist Adam Jensen.  (But they issue a disclaimer: It won’t give you the power to smash through walls!).  Check out the future of this technology at the partnership website AugmentedFuture.com.  Candidates for the Hero Arm can see customization options at the Open Bionics website here.

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The ultimate in original borg technology could be yours.  For the right price.

Auction house Profiles in History‘s Icons of Hollywood auction is December 15-16, 2011, and it offers another round of some of the best props and costumes Hollywood has to offer, from a set of Dorothy’s actual screen-used slippers from Wizard of Oz to Mork’s outfit from Mork & Mindy to Steve McQueen’s naval uniform from The Sand Pebbles to one of the cars used as the General Lee in Dukes of Hazzard to a DeLorean from Back to the Future III we discussed here this summer, to an original Dalek from Doctor Who.  There’s something at the coming auction for everyone.

But for fans of cybernetics, cyborgs, and bionics, and other early borg technologies, and fans of the Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman, nothing is cooler than the special effects arm modeled off of Lindsay Wagner as the Bionic Woman.  Next to one of the Bionic Man’s red jumpsuits (anyone have one for sale? let me know!) this is a great prop that gets to the heart of what the series was about.

It is a special effects arm made of latex, wires, springs, a circuit board and circuitry, used to show the implanting of an “evil programming chip” used as a key story element in the 1994 TV movie Bionic Ever After?, the show where Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers finally tie the knot.  It includes clamps, syringes and tubing that is reminiscent of the popular toy repair center from the 1970s.

The prop was used in a scene where the bad guys perform surgery on a drugged Jaime, implanting a chip with a computer virus in it to make her bionics go haywire.

It is estimated to sell for at least $2,000-$3,000.  It comes from the collection of movie makeup guru Jeff Goodwin, as discussed on this website, where you can see photos of other items he consigned to the coming Profiles in History auction.

More information on the auction can be found at the Profiles in History website.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
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