News - 2016052301 - London man receives bionic arm with a USB port and built-in flashlight

A London man who lost his arm following a traumatic train accident has been offered a new lease on life. He’s the first person to receive a futuristic prototype bionic arm that uses state of the art robotics to connect the nerves and muscles of the shoulder with a functional prosthetic. The arm and hand can perform delicate commands that conventional prosthetics just aren’t able to match, with a few extra,high-tech features built in.

At age 22, biological scientist James Young suffered a freak accident while out with friends. While waiting at an East London train station, he lost his balance and fell between two carriages as the train pulled up. He was pulled beneath the train, sustaining dramatic injuries that severed his left leg below the knee and required him to remain in an induced coma for 12 days until his condition stabilized. Though he survived, he had collapsed lungs, a fractured skull, and cracks along his spine.

Though surgeons tried to save his left arm by removing dead and infected tissue, in the end, it had to be amputated. All told, Young had to undergo twelve separate operations. When he returned home from the hospital, he struggled with phantom limb pain and had difficulty adjusting to life with a hook instead of a hand.

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Four years later, Young has been outfitted with a futuristic limb inspired by his love of video games, designed by prosthetics artist Sophie De Oliveira Barata, founder of the Alternative Limb Project. The project is headed by video game studio Konami, with the design of the limb heavily influenced by the Metal Gear Solid game franchise, and the prosthetic limb featured in the most recent installment of the series.

The high-tech limb uses electronic sensors to detect movements in Young’s shoulder muscles, giving him full control over the battery-powered hand and arm. The engineers behind the arm didn’t stop there, however. They’ve also added a few bonus features to take it beyond the functionality of a normal limb. The arm features an added laser light, a built-in flashlight to help him navigate in the dark, a USB port to charge his phone, and it can even be equipped with a small drone that is stored in the shoulder.

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For all its bells and whistles, the arm still has its downsides. Young does have to take it off to shower or sleep, and at 4.7 kg (10 lbs), it’s not exactly easy to carry around all day. Because the prosthetic is just a prototype, there’s still plenty of fine-tuning left to do. He’s currently unable to wear a leg prosthesis for long amounts of time due to the pain it causes, so he continues to use a wheelchair for his day-to-day activities. But in the future, Young hopes to be have a matching “cyborg” leg, after he has titanium implants put into the stump of his left leg to strengthen the area and provide better support for his weight.

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