Using Bionic Technology To Automatically Increase Your Height At Will
I thought this video on TED was kind of cute. The speaker Hugh Herr who lost his two limbs in a mountain climbing frostbite accident back in 1982 had to get his lower legs sown off to prevent more bacterial infection. The result is that he developed his own bionic legs.
In a rather funny demonstration of how he can just automatically change his height around, he shows to the audience how he will adjust his height to fit his changing moods throughout each day. If he is feeling down, he will just ratchet up the length of his legs so that he will look taller.
Bionics requires that three difference factors to all become interfaced together. This is what is described as Extreme Engineering, which is something that MIT seems to be working on currently in one of their labs. It is very tricky to get all the parts to work together as one, in a fluid process.
- Mechanical Interface – How his bionic limbs will be attached to his biological body
- Dynamic Interface – How to get the bionic limbs to move like flesh and bone.
- Electrical Interface – How does the bionic limb communicate with his nervous system.
So how is his limbs actually attached to his body? – by synthetic skins which has something known as “stiffness variations” which somehow can duplicate how his biological tissue behaves under various types of mechanical stimuli.
Somehow, the people first developed a mathematical model of how his limbs are supposed to work. They took pictures of the tissue (bone, nerves, muscles) that is inside of his body using MRI. This is to figure out the geometries and locations of the various tissues.
Then they put a circular configuration of actuators that are pushed either simultaneously or in a certain sequence to his skin to measure for this factor known as “tissue compliance”. I am reminded of trying to buy Linear Actuators more than a year ago to build the LSJL device that Tyler wanted, so I have some experience with putting actuators together.
The images and the values for compliances are combined to create a graphical & mathetical image of how his limb is supposed to work. As Herr states, the future of bionic technology will not just be some assembly line manufactured limbs which are fitted to all people of various situations, but each bionic parts will be “data driven quantitative frameworks”
As for the dynamics interface (how it moves like his biological body framework), the normal physiology of how humans walk, stand, and run have been studied in university labs (MIT). They figure out what the muscles are doing and how the muscles are being controlled by the spinal cord.
For the electrical interface (how his nervous system communicate with the bionic limb), the electrical pulse of his biological body part is measured by electrodes attached. That electrical pulse signal is communicated to the bionic limbs. This means that when you think about moving your phantom limb, the robotic limbs will be able to automatically move in response. They used a control system diagram and figured how how the reflex system is controlling the muscles. That control system is then programmed/embedded into the chips of the bionic limb. The modulate the sensitivity of the reflex with a neural signal. For example, when you relax your muscles, you will get a decrease in torque and power.
While Hugh Herr already has a rather impressive mechanical-dynamic-electrical interface, they are going to go even further and try to integrate our biological tissue with the bionic limbs to a point where the organic and the robotic mesh together into one bio-mechanical system which works seemlessly, where muscle and nerve cells and tissue are working at the molecular scale with the microscopic pieces of the bionic limbs.
Refer to time period 2:30 (Guys, watch the TED Talk, it is absolutely amazing what this guys is showing us. When we are in our 70s and 80s maybe 50-60 years in the future, the technology will be there to save us from many of mankind’s greatest medical problems which were unsolvable even a generation ago.)