What does the future hold?

A couple of weeks ago Hugh Herr “Leader of the Bionic Age” won the 2016 Princess of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research for his work on high-tech artificial limbs. We love how design can help improve people’s life. An improvement on the quality of life of people is always good news.

When did prosthetics start being used?

Prosthetics are not new. There is documentation about them from 400 bc. And during the dark ages was common to use prosthetics to hide the injuries from battles with little or no attention to functionality. In 1500, prosthetics had passive functionality and could be manipulated by setting them. Making it possible to hold things with prosthetic hands.

In 1529, the surgeon Amborise Paré introduced modern amputation and this was the beginning of the modern prosthetics. Having a close interaction with his patients helped him to understand their needs and inspired him to design a leg prosthesis that the patient fixed with an adjustable harness and had the first articulated knee with a lock control.

Today prosthetics have gone way over functionality.

New high tech prosthesis can connect to the bone, muscles and nerves of the user given them not only functionality but a feeling of sensation, mainly in form of tactile feedback. Moreover, with the help of new technologies as 3D printing, custom made prosthesis adapt better to every user (even to animals!) and makes them more accessible to everybody. Different new materials help avoid ulcere pressures while others help reduce the weight without losing strength.

What does the future hold?

The new advances in technology surprise us every day. Exoskeletons help people not only to walk again, but to increase their performance. Making it possible to hold big amounts of weight and to walk and run for hours without an impact to the legs. Becoming superhumans doesn’t end here. We live in an era where blind people can see again and contact lenses that will increase human vision and even offer virtual reality are being developed. Deaf can hear again and there are devices that allow us select what set of frequencies we want to hear or amplify or which ones we want to eliminate, no more background noise, or neighbours yelling!
We are awed by this present technology and design are shaping. As inspired by people as the awarded Hugh Herr.