Something that’s always bothered me about traditional prostheses is the constant attempt to mimic normal human morphology. Artificial legs are supposed to look like real legs and artificial arms are supposed to look like real arms, right?
Well, that shouldn’t always have to be the case. Why not think outside the box? This is an opportunity, after all, for some disabled people to express themselves and change their bodies in novel and unexpected ways.
This is exactly the perspective of Hans Alexander Huseklepp who believes that prostheses should go beyond mere functionality and become objects of fashion and identity. To this end he has designed the “Immaculate” which explores new possibilities for assistive devices.
Immaculate is a neurological prosthetic that will be connected to a user’s central nervous system. The exterior of the prosthetic is textile clad in Corian plates which, in principle, will allow embedded technology to be seamlessly integrated. This material will also give the prosthetic a clear graphical identity. In addition, each joint is a globe joint, allowing a larger freedom of movement than a normal human arm.
In making the case for novel and non-traditional prostheses. I’m not implying, however, that this is for all people, nor am I suggesting that there’s something wrong with a disabled person wanting to look like a “normal” human.
Case in point is cyber-athlete and double-amputee Aimee Mullins. When Aimee is not tearing up the track with her carbon-fibre blades, she wears artificial legs that look and feel exactly like normal legs—hair follicles and all. She even likes to paint her nails and wear high heels.
Here’s a video of Aimee Mullins at TED 1998 talking about running as a disabled athlete (very inspiring and I highly recommend you watch this) and her assortment of artificial limbs. It’s a poignant example of how technologies can help people achieve self-actualization.
George P. Dvorsky serves as Chair of the IEET Board of Directors and also heads our Rights of Non-Human Persons program. He is a Canadian futurist, science writer, and bioethicist. He is a contributing editor at io9 — where he writes about science, culture, and futurism — and producer of the Sentient Developments blog and podcast. He served for two terms at Humanity+ (formerly the World Transhumanist Association). George produces Sentient Developments blog and podcast.
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