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Every day we hear about how technology is changing numerous aspects of our lives: improved mobility, increased social interaction, and the faster spread of news are just a few. One area where technology is making tremendous strides and continually blurring the line between fiction and reality is healthcare technology. We are able to address more health issues now than ever before, allowing people suffering from various health problems to drastically improve their quality of life.
A 5-year-old South African boy who was born without fingers on his right hand has recently seen his life changed by a brand new 3-D printed prosthetic hand. Thanks to the collaboration of Ivan Owen and Rich Van As, a part-time mechanical special effects artist in Washington and a woodworker from South Africa respectively, the young boy is now able to play sports, pick up things and perform tasks that he would have never been able to do before. They used the rapidly growing technology of 3-D printing to provide the boy with his new prosthetic hand. The duo’s next plan is to form a nonprofit to share their knowledge and experience with others in order to educate people on how to create and assemble “robo-hands” for themselves.
Another great example of technology improving people’s health is a new device that gives limited vision to people suffering from a certain type of blindness. The “bionic eye,” recently approved by the FDA, is a breakthrough in vision research. The system involves an artificial retina – composed of a sheet of electrodes which is implanted in the eye – and a pair of glasses with an attached camera and a portable video processor. This combination of devices, called the Argus II, allows visual signals to bypass the damaged portion of the retina and be transmitted to the brain. Using the system, patients are now able to detect crosswalks on the street, the presence of people or cars, and sometimes even large numbers and letters. Though not widely available and still quite costly, the Argus II remains a life changer for many patients suffering from sight loss.
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