+
upworthy
Heroes

3 examples of what prosthetics used to be and a look into the future in motion.

True
Toyota

"I was just in New York for my birthday last weekend, and it was the first time where I consistently wore my hand for like ten hours a day for five days straight," said Vikram Pandit.

Vikram is an operations manager in his mid-20s, and he has a congenital amputation. He's been wearing a prosthesis more or less since he was born. And Vikram's not alone: Almost2 million people are missing a limb in the United States, whether it's from illness, trauma, or something they were born with. For many of these people, prosthetics can be game changing.


Humans have actually been using prosthetics for thousands of years.

The Roman general Marcus Sergius was said to have an iron hand as long ago as the Second Punic War in the 200s B.C. But for most of time, the prosthetics have been bulky, rough things.

There's some amazing research coming down the line that could make future generations of prosthetics extra useful to amputees.

GIF from SWNS TV/YouTube.

Basically, prosthetic limbs aren't just hunks of metal and plastic anymore. By adding motors, batteries, and computer processors, these limbs are rocketing out of the past and into the future.

To get some perspective on how far humans have come in prosthetic technology, check out these big comparisons.

1. This crude thing is a 19th century prosthetic leg.

A wooden leg worn by Gen. Józef Sowiński circa mid-1800s. Image from Halibutt/Wikimedia Commons.

But this poem of plastic and grace is its 21st century cousin.

GIF from Vanderbilt University/YouTube.

Whereas old prosthetics were often little more than metal or plastic extensions of a limb, researchers are now developing ones that can move on their own using motors and battery packs. At Vanderbilt University, researchers are even developing limbs programmed to match a person's natural gait. They can recognize when a person wants to speed up, slow down, turn, or use the stairs.

2. This cold hunk of iron is a prosthetic arm from the 1600s.

An artificial arm from circa 1600. Image from Science Museum London/Flickr.

But this 21st century experiment is in touch with its feelings.

A prosthetic fingertip can sense texture. GIF from USC Viterbi/Vimeo.

By adding different kinds of sensors, engineers can build prosthetics that feel temperature, texture, vibration, and many other senses.

Some, like SynTouch's BioTac (pictured above), can use this information to make prosthetics smarter. A touchy-feely prosthetic can intuitively tell when it's picking up something, for example, which means it can handle fragile things — like eggs — much more naturally.

“With contact detection, you think of your hand less like a tool and more like a hand,” said Vikram. (Full disclosure: Vikram is an employee of SynTouch.) "You have achieved a perfect prosthesis if you can use it without needing to divert any attention to it, just like a normal hand."

SynTouch says they're using the lessons they’ve learned from the BioTac experiment to make better, present-day solutions.

3. This lifeless thing is an artificial arm from the 1930s.

Image from Wellcome Library, London/Wellcome Images.

But its future descendant may one day read our minds.

The arm is reading his mind! GIF from John Hopkins Medicine/YouTube.

"There's lots of people with upper limb paralysis in the U.S. and worldwide," doctoral student Guy Hotson told Upworthy.

For those people, conventional prosthetics — which work by sensing muscle twitches or nerves in the skin — might not work."It would be great to make something that can directly tap into their neural signals and help restore their autonomy," he said.

Interestingly, Hotson was recently part of a proof-of-concept project that attempted just that. They hooked up a man with a robotic arm that could read his mind (it used a brain implant the man already had to treat epilepsy).

"After we've trained the computer, we hook it up, the neural signals stream in, and then the computer translates those neural signals into movements with the arm," said Hotson. Within a few hours, the man was able to get the arm to mirror his movements. While the man wasn't paralyzed himself (which is why you can see his own arm moving in the GIF), this suggests the technique could one day work in real cases.

More work needs to be done, of course, but the future of prosthetics is exciting and life-changing.

A lot of these innovations are more proof of concepts than commercially available devices, but they are showing us what could be possible in the coming years. Super-advanced aspirational, experimental stuff really does trickle down into real, life-changing devices sometimes. (See: wifi.)

And if in 100 years we can go from this...


A World War I prosthetic leg. Image from Thomas Quine/Flickr.

...to this...

An English rock climber using his modern prosthetic. Image from s_mestdagh/Flickr.

...then the next 100 years is certainly going to be awesome.

A map of the United States post land-ice melt.


Land ice: We got a lot of it.

Considering the two largest ice sheets on earth — the one on Antarctica and the one on Greenland — extend more than 6 million square miles combined ... yeah, we're talkin' a lot of ice.

But what if it was all just ... gone? Not like gone gone, but melted?

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Two brothers Irish stepdancing to Beyoncé's country hit 'Texas Hold 'Em' is pure delight

The Gardiner Brothers and Queen Bey proving that music can unite us all.

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.

Keep ReadingShow less

It's rare enough to capture one antler being shed

For those not well versed in moose facts, the shedding of antlers is normally a fairly lengthy process. It happens only once a year after mating season and usually consists of a moose losing one antler at a time.

It’s incredibly rare for a bull moose to lose both at the same time—and even more rare that someone would actually catch it on film.

That’s why shed hunter (yes, that’s a real term) and woodsman Derek Burgoyne calls his footage of the phenomenon a “one-in-a-million” shot.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Man tries to correct a female golfer's swing, having no idea she's actually a pro

“My hope is that he comes across this video and it keeps him up at night."

Representative Image from Canva

A man tried to tell a pro golfer she was swing too slow.

We’re all probably familiar with the term “mansplaining,” when a man explains something to a woman in a condescending or patronizing way. Often, this comes in the form of a man explaining a subject to a woman that she already knows on an expert level. The female neuroscientist who was told by a man that she should read a research paper she actually wrote comes to mind.

Recently the next-level mansplaining was caught in the wild. Well, at a golf driving range anyway.

Georgia Ball, a professional golfer and coach who’s racked up over 3 million likes on TikTok for all her tips and tricks of the sport, was minding her own business while practicing a swing change.

It takes all of two seconds on Google to see that when it comes to incorporating a swing change, golfers need to swing slower, at 50-75% their normal speed…which is what Ball was doing.

And this is what prompted some man to insert his “advice.”

Keep ReadingShow less

A woman into Tarot cards and a lady shocked her boyfriend likes Joe Rogan.

The numbers are stacked against young men when it comes to finding love on dating apps. They outnumber women 2 to 1 on the platforms, making the competition pretty tough. A new study finds that they’ll make things even harder for themselves if they admit to listening to the "Joe Rogan Experience” podcast in their profiles.

A new poll by Change Research surveyed 1,033 registered voters between 18 and 34 to ask about their political leanings and dating preferences. It discovered that women's biggest red flag when looking for a relationship is a date revealing they’re a MAGA Republican, with 76% of women saying it’s a turnoff. The second biggest red flag for women is people who “have no hobbies” (66%), and the third is those who say “All Lives Matter” (60%).

Keep ReadingShow less
via Tod Perry

An artist's recreation of Jackie's napkin note.

A woman named Jackie pulled a move straight out of a romantic comedy recently, and it has the internet rallying around her potential love interest. Jackie met a guy at a bar and liked him so much that she gave him her phone number. Well, 80% of her number, that is.

The world heard about it on January 17 when Twitter user Henpecked Hal shared a picture of the napkin with her partial phone number written on it. "My 22-year-old cousin met his dream girl at a bar and it's going pretty well,” Hal wrote in the tweet.

Keep ReadingShow less