Hugh Herr’s TED Talk On Bionics Is A Must-Watch

TED Talks have become… varying in quality, but the team behind them still finds some fascinating people to weigh in on some real issues. And one of them is Hugh Herr, one of the scientists pioneering a new world in bionics.

Part Man, Part Machine

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Herr has a deeply personal interest in bionics and prosthetics. By his junior year in high school, he was widely considered one of the best rock climbers in the entire world. And then something went horribly wrong: Herr and another climber were trapped in a blizzard and fell victim to frostbite. Herr lost both his legs.

Machine Climber

Herr decided he was going to climb again, and began designing and building prosthetics that let him do just that. He quickly created custom prosthetics that let him change his height from five to eight feet and that had specialized tools like titanium spike to stab into walls of ice. Herr quickly became an even better climber than he was before due to the tools offered him.

That research quickly shifted to Herr becoming both a professor studying orthotics and bionics at MIT, and the founder and CTO of a bionics corporation that builds advanced bionic limbs for those in need. Like, for example, Adrianne Haslet-Davis.

A Dancer Back On The Floor

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Probably the best moment is when Haslet-Davis, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing who lost a leg in the blast, gets on stage and dances. Herr and his team spent nearly a year analyzing how dancers move, how their legs bear the load, and other information to create a leg that lets Haslet-Davis dance.

It’s a touching sight, and it reinforces Herr’s larger point: Science can remove disability and replace it with ability. Herr argues that ability is a basic human right… and it’s hard to argue with technology at this point.

Dan Seitz

Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.

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