The machine-human connection ran like a titanium thread through several of today’s TED MED sessions.
* Hugh Herr of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab captivated the audience with his work on prosthetics. In 1982 both his legs were amputated below the knee after a mountain-climbing accident left him with severe frostbite. “I designed my body from the ground up,” he said. “I reasoned that there’s no such thing as a disabled person; there are only disabled technologies.” Now he can stand on coin-size footholds when climbing. “You could not with a straight face label me ‘disabled.’ I climb mountains, for God’s sake.” Herr said he wouldn’t trade his prostheses for his biological legs. “My artificial limbs are part of me,” he said. “Besides, I can upgrade.”
* Segway inventor Dean Kamen of Deka Research shared three technologies for “arms, water, power.” He developed a prosthesis for soldiers who’ve lost an arm. The prosthetic hand has movable digits, which enabled an amputee soldier to build a model of a wooden boat.
Pacemakers aren’t only for hearts. “Everything in your body is electrically active,” says Oesterle. He showed a slide with 15 areas that might be paced for therapies. In the brain, pacing electrodes applied to basal ganglia can ease Parkinsonian tremors, for instance. Similar therapies might also ease obsessive-compulsive disorders, drug addiction and depression. The same capsule form factor could hold injectable sensors as well. What’s after that? Medtronic is working to develop a pacemaker that gets energy from ambient area; a mock up was about the size of Lincoln’s beard on a penny.