Amputee to debate limb loss and prosthetic technology

13th April 2016

A man who lost an arm and a leg in a rail accident will be among the speakers at an event at Sheffield Hallam University about the design, choice and use of prosthetic limbs.

James Young, a 25-year-old biological science graduate from London who lost two limbs in 2012, will join a panel of speakers at the event who will discuss and debate limb loss and look at how technology - including virtual reality - can help people use their new prosthetic limbs. Technology enthusiast James has been using a carbon-fibre prosthetic limb designed and built by a team of 10 experts led by London-based prosthetic sculptor Sophie de Oliveira Barata. The limb has been estimated to have the value of £60,000 with core funding for the project coming from video game company Konami. They selected James as a candidate to receive the limb as a project inspired by their title 'Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain' in which the main character 'Snake' uses a bionic arm. The limb is fitted with a 3D-printed hand that is controlled by sensors that detect minute muscle movements in James' back. It is substantially more dextrous than the NHS prosthetic he acquired following his accident. James said: "I'm excited by the innovation here at Sheffield Hallam, hybridising areas of technology to create a beneficial scenario for patients. "It's pleasing to see an unexpected goal reached towards patient-centric healthcare due to smart individuals taking advantage of the commercial advent of VR and EMG sensor technology. The event is part of a new project funded by the Wellcome Trust, showcasing emerging technologies and cutting-edge multi-disciplinary research linking biomedical science, psychology, physiotherapy and virtual reality. A team of researchers from across the University is currently involved in a trial on the use of Oculus Rift, a piece of virtual reality hardware, to allow patients to 'see' their new prosthetic to help them learn how to use it. The team combined the Oculus Rift technology with a Myo armband, which is worn on the end of the amputated limb and uses electrical sensors to read muscle activity. It means the patient wearing a headset can see a virtual arm and practice how to move their muscles to control a prosthetic arm - which could have life-changing effects for the user. Denise Eaton, Project Manager at Sheffield Hallam, said: "This exciting project involves researchers at Sheffield Hallam University in helping the public understand limb loss and find out how our minds control our bodies. "In partnership with others, they will develop new and exciting methods and technologies to illustrate the issues, and contribute to training people to use more and more sophisticated prosthetics." The event, Virtual Reality Prosthetics - Body and Mind, is free and open to the public. It takes place in the Cantor Building, City Campus on Thursday 14 April from 6pm to 8pm. Book tickets here.

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