Four years ago James Yonge had his life changed forever. Falling beneath a train, he lost his arm following a freak accident.
As the train was pulled into the station, James lost his balance and fell between two train cars. He was pulled beneath the train, resulting in traumatic injuries. Though he survived, his left leg was severed below the knee, his lungs collapsed, his skull was fractured, and he had cracks along his spine.
“Initially, my parents had been told I had broken my leg and arm. They didn’t know how bad it was until they saw me,” said James. He needed 12 separate operations to rebuild his face and body.
Three months later, he was released to go home, but it wasn’t easy. James said he was, “in a dark place.”
“I kept trying to measure myself against a fully-bodied, healthy, able human, which was unreasonable.”
A year ago, James’ life was changed again. An extraordinary experiment proposed fitting him with a prototype bionic arm.
James, who is a video game fan and uses his good arm to play, responded to an online ad from Konami, a video game company, who was searching for an amputee interested in testing a futuristic prosthetic limb.
The limb itself was a combination of ground-breaking robotics which connected nerves and muscles in the shoulder, along with a custom state-of-the-art design that would reflect the owner’s personality.
Four years after his accident, James has been fitted with his bionic arm, designed by prosthetics artist Sophie De Oliveira Barata, founder of the Alternative Limb Project.
The project itself is led by Konami, with the limb’s design inspired by the Metal Gear Solid video game franchise – and it does look like it’s straight out of a sci-fi world. The prosthetic limb was even featured in the most recent series installment.
There are a number of features to the robotic arm, including a laser light (pretty much for effect rather than a practical use), a flashlight (to light the way at night), a USB port (housed in a wrist opening behind the hand); a watch, and even a drone, which is found within a panel on the outer shoulder.
Although the hand and arm are remarkable, there are still enhancements that can increase usage to its full potential. The limiting factor now is the “primitive” way the robotic arm is attached to his shoulder.
Titanium impacts would allow the arm to slot into his body directly, allowing for mobility and the ability to do more complex tasks, such as lifting things or waving like a real limb. Impacts would also give him significantly greater strength.
“The surgeons bore out some bone marrow and slide in a metal rod instead, so your bone cells can start to integrate with it.”
Although there are many bells and whistles, the arm doesn’t provide a flawless experience. James does have to remove the arm to shower or sleep, and at 10bs, the weight can be a lot to carry around all day.
Although the prosthetic is a prototype and there’s much more fine-tuning left to do, the future of the technology looks bright.
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