Amputee Engineer Designs, Installs His Own Robotic Arm

After an accidental and tragic arm-lopping, Mark Lesek's early efforts to find a suitable prosthesis didn't really pan out. Lesek, a mechanical engineer by trade, took matters into his own hand(s). He made one.

The story is actually a bit more complicated than that. Doctors' initial advice was to give up—his amputation was so close to the shoulder that most modern prostheses wouldn't have functioned properly. Lesek traveled to Melbourne (he lives in Tasmania [a real place]) to be fitted with a high-end German unit which, after a year of patchy performance, he abandoned.

Having heard about a metal 'n' bone-implantation technique called osseointegration, Lesek refocused his efforts on the pricey foreign technique. A trip to Sweden and $80,000 AUD (about $50,000 USD) netted him a mechanical "bolt" that provides an approximation of shoulder function—enough to control basic motions on a prosthesis. Existing bolt-compatible units didn't suit his specific work needs or price range, so he decided to start designing and constructing his own robo-arms.

His homebuilt limbs are pretty basic ones (their capabilities end at pointing and basic movements) but he's now working with the University of Tasmania to design a computer—and possibly brain—controlled prosthesis. This kind of tech is moving fast at the moment, but how far he gets with his mind-melded arm remains to be seen. For now, though, he's pretty much the coolest hobbyist in the world. [The Mercury]