Monday, May 21, 2007

Perhap sooner than we think: Dean Kamen & the bionic arm

I, Robot (2004) / **½
Originally uploaded by greybean.
Perhaps you remember Dean Kamen? While he's best known for inventing the Segway, he has more than 150 other inventions, many of which are more remarkable and more life changing. Most of his previous work has been in the fields of medicine, although he also has patents in climate control systems and helicopter design. While the Segway caught a good idea, his early work is more awesome.

From Scott Kirsner in Wired back in 2000:
When he watched a man in a wheelchair try to negotiate a curb in the late '80s, Kamen wondered whether he could build a chair that would hop curbs without losing its balance. After $50 million and eight years in development, the Ibot Transporter - a six-wheeled robotic "mobility system" that can climb stairs, traverse sandy and rocky terrain, and raise its user to eye-level with a standing person - is undergoing FDA trials, and should be available by 2001, at a cost of $20,000. That may sound high, but keep in mind that the Ibot erases the need to retrofit a home for a wheelchair.
Mr. Kamen is headed back to make a name for himself, and help thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people. Will Smith's bionic arm from I, Robot is here.

From YouTube:

Over at MedGadget about the development of the arm which was done by the Mr Kamen's DEKA Research & Development Corporation under the auspices of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, also known as DARPA.

While the Segway is cool, this is life-changing stuff. Let's hope they can get this in production soon. Given the way things are going overseas, I'm afraid we have plenty of candidates.

h/t to the News Buckit.