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Rob Spence shows his bionic eye, which has an in-socket video camera that records video that can be sent to a handheld LCD viewer with no connection to the optic nerve  (Source:
Square Enix, publisher of "Deus Ex: Human Revolution," sent filmmaker Rob Spence on a trip around the world to see where we are in the field of prosthetics

"Deus Ex: Human Revolution" was only released last week and has already received quite a bit of attention after GameStop pulled all of the OnLive coupons from sealed packages and placed them back on the shelves for sale as new. Now, the new game is catching the public's eye once again in a new video that investigates how far we are from the future portrayed in "Deus Ex: Human Revolution."

Square Enix, publisher of "Deus Ex: Human Revolution," sent filmmaker Rob Spence on a trip around the world to see where we are in the 
field of prosthetics, and how long it might be before our reality is similar to that of "Deus Ex: Human Revolution." 

In the game, lead character Adam Jensen is a cyborg who uses Terminator eyes, which add situational data to vision, and robotic arms that are capable of super strength and are able to produce weapons.

Spence can relate to Jensen somewhat, since he is a “cyborg” as well. Commonly referred to as "Eyeborg," Spence utilizes an in-socket video camera as one of his eyes, which records video that can be sent to a handheld LCD viewer with no connection to the optic nerve. He lost his eye in a shotgun accident as a child. 

In his latest documentary, 
"Deus Ex: The Eyeborg Documentary," Spence meets some of the most high-tech cyborgs who use robotic eyes, arms or legs as replacement limbs/organs. 

Along the way, Spence meets Miika Terho, a blind man from Finland who lost his vision due to Retinitis pigmentosa. Terho's vision was restored through a chip that was implanted underneath his retina. The chip replaced broken photo receptors and allows his to make out shapes of many objects. 

While the eye was obviously a central focus for Spence, he also explored the use of other bionic body parts, such as the arm. In the documentary, he interviews Jason Henderson, a man who lost both of his arms in a fireworks accident. Henderson has robotic arms from below the elbow down to the hand on both arms. He is able to use the remaining muscles in his arm to send electrical signals to sensors in the bionic arms instructing them how to move. He can also switch the types of "hands" he uses, from regular five-fingered hands to those that look like curved discs, which are better for swimming.

As far as prosthetic legs go, former Army Staff Sgt. Heath Calhoun was documented for having two bionic legs. He possess a hydraulic knee that has a microprocessor inside, which is updated 50 times per second by a sensor that determines whether or not to add hydraulic resistance. But Calhoun mentioned that a bionic leg that can do stairs would make his life a lot easier, and that's where Össur Prosthetics from Iceland comes in. 

Össur Prosthetics has developed the Power Knee, which gives cyborgs the power to stand up and walk up stairs more easily. 

Prosthesis is even being used where it is not replacing a lost limb or organ, but simply enhancing what we already have. For instance, Joseph Junke, president and CEO of Tanagram Partners, is in the process of developing a mask for firefighters that adds situational data to their vision as well as a glove that activates it. By squeezing the glove into a fist and opening it back up again, a firefighter wearing the specialized mask can see a menu of options literally at his fingertips. The mask then displays information like oxygen levels and ambient room temperature in certain areas. 

Junke expects a prototype to be complete within one year, and production of the masks/gloves to be in full swing in two years. 

"I think technology moves more quickly now," said David Jönsson, prosthetics engineer at Össur. "At the moment, it's more a matter of what you can imagine. I mean, who says that a normal human leg is the optimal thing for you? Prosthesis evolved to this leg that we have now, but who says that's the end of the line?"

These questions may lead to people wanting to remove limbs surgically for the bionic versions because they could work more efficiently and have more options one day, and the documentary added that this could likely lead to a whole new set of ethical questions. But for now, engineers are just starting to experiment with neural prosthetics. 

So when can we expect to see cyborgs like Jensen from "Deus Ex: Human Revolution?" According to Junke, it's very likely that we could have a similar reality before 2027. But the greatest challenge will be an 
interface directly connected with the brain.

The documentary can be seen 

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Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By Pirks on 8/29/2011 12:32:56 PM , Rating: 3
...all these super powered arms that can throw hundreds of pounds in the air are limited by the basic laws of physics, i.e. they require some super duper compact and dense energy source, something we are no closer to getting than many many years ago. Chem batteries or flywheels or super capacitors or whatnot - nothing is even remotely close to power density these arms/legs require.

So we'll be stuck with things like eyes and some moderately powered limbs that could barely move for decades if not ages to come. Why? Because the problems in storing energy are so fundamental it's not even comprehensible for a person without Ph.D. in physics, electronics, chemistry and material science. We're talking about something like storing antimatter as an energy source here. Probably only antimatter would allow such a tremendous power density required by this artificial limbs stuff that has energy to throw heavy stuff, do insane jumps, AND serve as powerful high energy weapon AT THE SAME TIME. The energy storage/density requirements are SO unreachable even in remote future that no one but a few sci-fi writers and game developers are interested in it.

Not saying the game is bad tho, it's top notch. Just connecting dreamy folks with reality here.

And let's not even start about miniature servomotors/actuators capable of heavy lifting/throwing/insane jumping AND being not larger than human muscles AT THE SAME TIME. This one may be even not doable at all, again limited by the laws of physics.

RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By Connoisseur on 8/29/2011 12:54:41 PM , Rating: 2
Agree... in addition, while it may be really cool to dream of an "Iron Man" reality, the truth is that the human body is not the be all and end all of evolution in terms of strength/speed/efficiency etc. I think the "true" cyborg may be more of a shell controlled remotely by a human mind. This allows for a lot more flexibility in terms of arrangement of parts and space.

But yes, excluding fusion/fission power, we've essentially been using the same power systems that were developed more than 100 years ago. We really need a better energy storage/generation medium.

RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By MrBlastman on 8/29/2011 1:28:29 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately due to constraints governed by the laws of physics, having a compact, high density and high output source of power (even if driven by capacitors) on a small device or one with limited surface area and mass--is far, far away as Pirks points out.

However, from how I see things, I believe that Tesla was on to something quite some time ago with his experiments into wireless power transmission. For the time being, most earthbound technologies that could be highly beneficial through augmentation or even portable devices could benefit tremendously from a network of wireless power transmission. As I see it, this will be the next evolutionary step as adequate power systems (even with fuel cells) for small applications are very far off.

Now, if you move to something larger such as a big SUV or ideally a Euclid in size, then you can have some interesting power sources even now but they're still far off from being practical. You also have that problem called mass and friction to deal with...

RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By AnnihilatorX on 8/30/2011 6:37:18 AM , Rating: 2
Hmm, so in the forseeable future I can't have a piston upgrade that stays hard indefinitely, powerful, and have 12 DoF?

RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By MrBlastman on 8/30/2011 11:19:15 AM , Rating: 2
Oh, well I don't see why not. Get the right woman in your lap and your piston is guaranteed to stay hard for a loooong time. If she's a gymnast, then that's a bonus as there's your 12 DoF upgrade. ;)

RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By MrBungle123 on 8/30/2011 1:09:14 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder if it would be possible to have a capacitor bank in the limb that was charged by a device that derived its power from the implantees blood sugar? There is quite a lot of chemical engery in a body if it can be harvested without killing the person it would solve the power issue.

RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By mitchrj on 8/29/2011 12:55:12 PM , Rating: 1
Top notch...when it works.
So, so, so many bugs.

RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By OS on 8/29/2011 1:13:16 PM , Rating: 2
just need more research in micro nuclear power sources

RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By Pirks on 8/29/2011 1:38:48 PM , Rating: 3
nah, sounds more like micro antimatter storage systems to me.

but... imagine what happens when such a system goes unstable (say the cyborg was hit with a bullet or a laser or something) and all internal energy is released in a single blast. the freaking cyborg will obliterate its own army, an even worse - one such exploding cyborg will start chain reaction which will release the antimatter stored in all the other cyborgs, so the whole army will bring the containing city/state/spaceship/mothership/etc down in a quarter of a second.

one bullet literally kills the enemy, all of it. isn't is sweet? no, says the enemy :)

hence, say bye to this idea as well. nothing will work I guess. alas.
that is, until physicists maybe open some other forms of matter and/or energy. until then we are f#cked.

RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By OS on 8/29/2011 2:03:55 PM , Rating: 2
small nuclear power supplies are near reality now, antimatter is not.

anyone who can build an antimatter system can contain it in level 4 armor if needed.

RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By Pirks on 8/29/2011 4:27:42 PM , Rating: 2
level 4 armor

RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By OS on 8/29/2011 5:08:35 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By MrBlastman on 8/29/2011 2:41:13 PM , Rating: 2
physicists maybe open some other forms of matter and/or energy. until then we are f#cked.

The problem with this is thermodynamics are thermodynamics. There's just only so much you can do with a law until you figure out a new way to tiptoe around it without direct violation--and history has proven that something that is overly complex ultimate leads to decreased efficiencies or doesn't work at all.

Read up on string theory. It has lots of neat "perks" to it.

RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By B3an on 8/29/2011 9:54:34 PM , Rating: 2
say the cyborg was hit with a bullet or a laser or something) and all internal energy is released in a single blast. the freaking cyborg will obliterate its own army

Thats one of the many things that annoyed me with Terminator 3 and 4.
In these vastly inferior sequels the Terminators use a similar kind of energy cell to power them. In T3 the terminator played by Arnie gets a cell damaged and he throws it away, with the cell causing a mini nuke-like explosion. What use is an army or Terminators that can all be destroyed by damaging there power cell? Then in T4 a whole Skynet plant is taken out by blowing these cells up. Talk about bad design... or bad script writing.

RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By MrTeal on 8/29/2011 6:36:34 PM , Rating: 3
I think you're being a little pessimistic here. I can convert about 1MJ of food each day into the energy that allows me to sustain life and do all the lifting and whatnot I need over the course of a day. 1MJ is about equal to 300Wh, or 5 average laptop batteries.

1 US gallon of ethanol contains 22.3kWh of energy; if ethanol could be converted at even 1.5% efficiency in a fuel cell a gallon would provide the same energy as all the food I eat in a day provided I don't siphon off too much from the tank when work gets boring. Even without waste heat capture fuel cells are often able to get 50% efficiency.

Even then, human muscles aren't that efficient, even outside of the base needs of keeping us alive we convert about 20-25% of additional food energy into mechanical energy. Electrical motors are much more efficient than that.

Sure, we aren't going to be at the point anytime soon where I can fling some dude a mile in the air, fly after him and then shoot him with my plasma-cannon arm. There's no reason to think that creating prosthetics that are many times more powerful than human arms or legs isn't possible though.

RE: Nice sci-fi stuff but...
By TSS on 8/29/2011 10:27:50 PM , Rating: 2
Storage of energy complex? Please. I don't even have an high school diploma and i can figure out how to make a cyborg leg super jump.

Take the lower leg, place an hydraulic cylinder in it with a big spring around it. You use the hydraulics to compress the spring. Put a quick release valve on the hydraulics, the spring uncompresses and watch the leg bounce up like a pogo stick.

All you need then is power to run the hydraulic pumps, which wouldn't be that big of a deal if we wouldn't be so squeemish about everything nuclear - including atomic batteries.

I haven't played through the game yet, but i can even imagine an lower arm with an high powered energy weapon in it. Lasers, Railguns and tesla coils all work on the same principle: store alot of energy over a small period of time then release it over an incredibly short peroid of time. A friend of mine knows how to make a taser out of one of those disposable cameras. It'll simply use up all the energy of the battery at once instead of using a little bit just to create a flash.

And of course, it's a game, there are some artistic liberties at work. To get super human abilities and everything but still look human is too much to ask for another 50-100 years.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh

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