Kamen is best known for inventing the Segway PT. He also founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a program for students to get people interested in science technology and engineering.
“A few years ago I was visited by the guy that runs DARPA… [Kamen] said, “Why is it, at the end of the Civil War They were shooting each other with muskets, if somebody lost an arm we gave them a wooden stick with a hook on it. Now, we’ve got F18s and F22s, and if somebody looses and arm we give them a plastic stick with a hook on it.”
I found this video at TED2010…
DEKA has been working on the project since 2005, and it’s come a long way. The neurally-controlled device promises a better quality of life for bilateral amputees. In The TED video Dean Kamen says the technology has not changed much since the civil war and he took up the challenge to make an electric hand that the fingers can move gently enough to pick up a grape and eat it. But can it throw a ball or hold a baseball bat? I don’t think so. If you put that arm on me when I was 12 years old… after an hour of hockey or touch football in the street it would have a couple fingers hanging off it. And I’d be saying give me the hook back.
Having to live as an amputee using the existing technology is a challenge. I lost my arm in 1972 and I still have a prosthetic arm using the technology of the 70’s. Even with this old technology I still play ice hockey, tennis and softball at a high level (better than most people with 2 hands). Playing softball I bat using the hook, but I can’t throw with the hook. I had to learn to throw with my left hand (I was right handed) and flip off the mit and catch the ball in the air and then throw it. Watch this video of me and my daughter demonstrating “how to throw and catch a baseball with one arm”.
I wonder when an arm like Kamen’s will be available for guys like me. Maybe in the next 50 years? Too bad it takes war to make people aware of these types of issues. Kamen has a mountain to climb; making a machine mimic a human hand is clearly way beyond the current science, but he has made remarkable strides. Even Stephen Colbert the host of “The Colbert Report” was amazed by this new attempt at making a bionic arm. I think we should be thankful to Dean because he is pushing the technology in the right direction.
Dean Kamen isn’t the only person trying to make amputees lives easier. Take a look at Handicap International whose health teams help people get prostheses and orthopedic devices in places where disaster has struck, like the recent earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.