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Scaly, feathery alternative limbs leap the uncanny valley into the future of prosthetic design

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Prosthetic snake armThe mention of an amputee flaunting a showy, bird-plumaged prosthetic arm should make the Furry connection clear, in this story about the work of the Alternative Limb Project (ALP) and it's director, Sophie de Oliveira Barata.

De Oliveira Barata is "challenging the belief that prosthetic limbs should aim to look as realistic as possible." Her career started in special effects for film and TV, before she moved to work with a realistic prosthetics company for eight years. In her opinion:

The dominant thinking is that a new limb should be as close a match to the previous limb as possible. But until technology gets to the point where you can have a realistic looking limb in movement and aesthetics, there will always be this uncanny middle ground. Having an alternative limb embraces difference and can help create a sense of ownership and empowerment.

The new option for limbs include crystal, stereo speakers, lighting, and simulated internal anatomy to tranform disability-concealers into creative, eye-catching fashion. What's next, hooves and paws?

Fursuit-owning readers may appreciate why, as custom-designed pieces, these limbs do not come cheap, with a cost between $4,600 and $21,000. In Britain, government health funding is dedicated only to realistic prosthetics. But De Oliveira Barata argues that alternative prostheses could be just as beneficial. It opens the imagination to a whacky sci-fi future where species-transition could be as acceptable as gender reassignment. Until then, artists, designers and biomedical engineers can explore creative inspiration and improve the lives of patients with this new kind of prosthetics.

Comments

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I hope this doesn't sound like trivializing the experiences of people with less limbs than me. But these things seem designed to make people say "wow cool!" So I am. :)

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The wrongest thing to say in this situation would be: "Wow--- that fursuit must have cost you an arm and a leg"

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There are some really advanced prosthetic hitting the market. 5 finger movement, even touch sensors for pressure, heat, cold. There has been recent approval for implanted connections to the bone and to connect nerve endings to control the devices. The biggest issue is price and dependability. The 2 finger "hooks" are work horses, simple, effective, but not pleasing to the eye (unless one wants to run around in pirate mode.) The grip hands are also functional, and don't look far out of the normal. The shells for the simple grip hands could easily be covered with fur, feathers, or scales. For a furry, it should be rather simple, cost effective, to have a glove made. While it's great that someone is thinking about building striking features for those that want them, most amputees want a measure of usability, and normality, after suffering what is undoubtedly a traumatic loss.

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Do you have one? Do you work with them? do tell more! I'm curious about how a person would decide to get a creatively-designed prosthesis and for what occasions. Actually this reminded me I have a friend who had a bad motorcycle accident last year and is facing some decisions due to permanent nerve damage, and wants to work on designing his own stuff. I'll have to send him this article.

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Well, until today, I built mechanical prostheses. Got laid off today...

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Ah, crap... sorry to hear that. Would you ever consider starting your own company? All this new tech seems to make potential for creative application of bio-engineering (or whatever the best term is). I know a furry with several successful companies in that... even holds board meetings in costume (yeah, pretty nutty right? Good for him.)

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Huh... I should've read this earlier. It'd tie in well with my newest article, hopefully up today.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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Fursuiter and unconditional linty hugger