This page is intended to provide a real-life foundation for artificial limb technology in Furscape. It is supplemental material, aimed at players wishing to create characters with cybernetic enhancements. - Hagalaz
Biomechatronics is an applied interdisciplinary science that aims to integrate mechanical elements, electronics and parts of biological organisms. Biomechatronics includes the aspects of biology, mechanics, and electronics. It also encompasses the fields of robotics and neuroscience. The goal of this branch of science is to make devices that interact with human muscle, skeleton, and nervous systems. The end result is that the devices will help with human motor control that was lost or impaired by trauma, disease or birth defects.
The first experiment with a healthy individual appears to have been that by the British scientist Kevin Warwick. In 2002, an implant was interfaced directly into Warwick's nervous system. The electrode array, which contained around a hundred electrodes, was placed in the median nerve. The signals produced were detailed enough that a robot arm was able to mimic the actions of Warwick's own arm and provide a form of touch feedback again via the implant.
Claudia Mitchell, a former Marine and amputee, tested a prosthetic arm developed by Dr. Todd Kuiken at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. A plastic surgeon, Dr. Gregory Dumainian at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago re-directed the nerves that control her missing arm to her chest. The nerves re-grew close to the skin of her chest. Tiny electrodes on her skin picked up the electrical activity of these nerves and sent signals to the motors in the arm. She was able to control the arm's movements by thinking about it.
OOC Note: As of 2011, the prosthetic arm is not truly biomechatronic in that signals only go one way, from Claudia to the arm. Dr. Kuiken is working on the next step of having the arm provide feedback to her, including sensations such as pain and pressure. Note also that this is different than a myoelectric prosthesis – which relies on currents generated by contraction of muscles (for example, in a stump remnant of an amputated limb) to control the prosthesis – because the sensors involved are detecting nerve activity from the subject's median nerve - Hagalaz.
With the advent of modern microneurosurgical techniques, it became possible to map the terminii of the brachial and lumbosacral nerve plexuses, allowing for prostheses with more precise movement control, kinesthetic sense, and even limited 'cutaneous' sensory feedback. The first limb designs to take advantage of these techniques were bulky, but as time passed, it became possible to build limb designs that roughly matched the original limb size while providing a respectable percentage of the original limb's functionality.
One thing that has not changed is the requirement for rehabilitation and training in a controlled environment to allow the host body and new limb to become a single functional unit.
- biomedical engineering
- multielectrode array
- Kevin Warwick, PhD, D.Sc.
- Todd Kuiken, MD
- Claudia Mitchell
- Rehabilitation institute of Chicago