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An Exciting Breakthrough in Robotics Gives a Retired Staff Sergeant a Second Chance

October 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Robotic prosthetics have long been the dream of sci-fi buffs, but they are fast becoming real devices that can help those suffering from debilitating injuries. These robotics arms and legs can help a person reclaim a part of their lives they thought they had lost.

That was the story for retired staff sergeant James Sides. During his second tour of Afghanistan, he was injured in an explosion. An IED he’d been trying to dismantle suddenly exploded, leaving him blind in one eye and breaking his forearm. Sides made a healthy recovery, but he had trouble returning to a normal life.

That’s where the Alfred Mann Foundation decided to step in and help. They handle outreach for the Alfred Mann Institute, connecting potential patients with incredible breakthroughs that can dramatically change their lives. Together with Rich Davis, CFO of Rogers & Cowan, they have begun a campaign to bring awareness to Sides and his new arm.

They chose Sides to be the first person on Earth to receive a robotic appendage. Sides voluntarily had sensors surgically embedded in his forearm, which are designed to read the way his muscles move. Those sensors translate that motion into hand movement, so his palms can open and close. He can also move his thumb, which means he can hold his wallet or shake someone’s hand. The device even has built in pressure sensors that stop it from crushing the objects it interacts with, since Sides has no feeling in the appendage.

The hope is that this breakthrough will soon become a routine part of treating people with debilitating injuries. Those who have lost appendages may soon regain much of the functionality they lost, and this technology will only get better as time goes on.