In Defense of Cyborg Athletes

Much of the debate on the place of advanced prostheses for the disabled in competitive sports often downplays arguably the most important perspective: that of the athletes who couldn't compete without them. In light of the recent MIT research project that found prosthetic limbs offering no advantage over natural legs, sprinter and double Cheetah leg user Aimee Mullins has some even more thought-provoking (and first-hand) analysis of the issue.

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Study Proves That Specialized Prosthetic Legs Grant No Advantage In Sprinting

In 2008, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) banned double amputee Oscar Pistorius from racing in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Later that same year, the ban was reversed. The back and forth centered on Pistorius' specially designed, spring-loaded, prosthetic legs. The IAAF argued that artificial legs designed especially for running gave Pistorius an unfair advantage against runners whose flesh-and-blood limbs didn't benefit from advanced engineering and space-age materials.

While an MIT study last year eventually led to the overturn of the original IAAF decision, no one had done a systematic study of amputee racers in general. Now, the MIT researchers that investigated Pistorius have released the results of a wider trial, and it turns out that specially designed prostheses don't actually help sprinters.

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"Luke" Arm Begins Widespread Testing Among Veterans

Dean Kamen's ground-breaking prosthetic enters large-scale military trial

The foot-controlled "Luke" prosthetic arm may not win any lightsaber fights, but it could soon lend a helping hand to wounded warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. A three-year study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is slated to provide engineering feedback before widespread distribution to veterans, according to an announcement last week.

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The GlideCycle: First Production Run Next Month

Making riding a bike easy again for people who are physcially impaired is all about innovative design

For lower body amputees, the expression “as easy as riding a bike,” is an unfortunate idiom. But when saddled into the GlideCycle, amputees, and others with physical impairments, might make those pedaling traditional bikes look like they’re the ones working hard.

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How to Eat Fried Jellyfish

And other visions of the future

With much of the world's fish population in a precarious state, here are some recipes to prepare for a future eating other kinds of sea creatures: jellyfish tempura and Greek-style squid.

Also in today's links: big babies, bionic eyes, and more.

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Special Operations

Work-around surgeries for missing limbs, quick fixes to mend Nazi bones and tricks for lengthening uneven limbs; when it comes to special ops, the Doctor is in

Scene: A Royal Air Force station in Great Britain during World War II. Two medics, Tom and Fred are enjoying tea and toast. An officer arrives and orders the medics go out with a stretcher to retrieve a captured German pilot who was wounded when he ejected from his plane over British territory.

Tom: Dash it all, Fred, doesn’t this bloody Nazi pilot look just like the Nazi with the broken femur we just sent back through the POW exchange a few weeks ago? How could he be up and flying again so soon with an injury like that? He should have been bedridden with his leg up in traction for months!

Fred: Crikey, old chap, I do believe you’re right! [Addresses the Nazi pilot] Here now, tell us how you managed to get up and about so soon after cracking your femur?

German Pilot: Nein.

Tom: Come on, old boy, tell, are doctors in Germany so special they’ve got you cured already?

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Monkeys Work Robotic Arm

Researchers fit macaques with one of the most advanced prosthetics in the hopes of improving life for amputees (not to mention marshmallow-starved primates)

While robotic prosthetics controlled by electrical impulses from an amputee are nothing new, their range of motion and practicality in daily life have been particularly limited since they first appeared on the market. New research coming out of the University of Pittsburgh promises to change that, with a robotic arm capable of complex and subtle movements. The scientists behind the project successfully trained macaque monkeys to feed themselves by using the arm to reach out for an grab marshmallows without knocking them over. It sounds like an inconsequential task, but the hurdles between an arm on which the "hand" simply opens and closes and an arm with an articulated shoulder, elbow, and wrist, and a gripping hand working together with the brain have been not insignificant.

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Double Amputee Sprinter Cleared For Olympic Competition

Oscar Pistorius, whose prostheses were previously considered an unfair advantage, has been given the thumbs up to compete

Its about time. After an excruciating and absurd debate, double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius will be allowed to compete in the Olympics. Pistorius won his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport today which immediately overturned an asinine ruling by the International Association of Athletics Federations which stated Pistorius gained an unfair advantage from his prosthetics.

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The Future of Prosthetics and Telerobotics

Brilliant Ten winner Yoky Matsuoka chats about the potential applications for her ground-breaking robotics research

Yoky Matsuoka, the director of the Neurobotics Laboratory at the University of Washington, and one of the honorees in our most recent class of the Brilliant Ten, took some time to chat with Talking Robots about her work in particular, and the future of robotics in general. One of Matsuoka's many projects involves building an anatomically-correct mechanical hand—see the video above of the finger in action—and she also has big ideas about brain-machine interfaces, tele-manipulation and robots in the home.

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Dexterous New Prosthetic Hands

Researchers are developing mechanical mitts with better grip

No, we're still not up to the level of Luke's mechanical hand in Star Wars, but progress does seem to be accelerating. The i-LIMB, from Touch Bionics, debuted last year, and German researchers recently tested it against a new prototype, the Fluidhand. The researchers say both are more dexterous than the industry standard, given that the individual fingers of the mechanical hands can be controlled independently.

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