Four years ago, a young man suffered from a brutal accident that resulted in multiple injuries, ranging from fractured bones to missing limbs. However, James Young didn’t let that stop him from pursuing a career and enjoying his love of video games.
A few weeks ago we proudly shared Aaron Soetaert‘s story, which involved him losing an arm due to an accident. The gamer then showed the world that he could still play video games one handed, including fast paced shooter Call of Duty. James Young’s story is a little different and involves a prosthetic arm reminiscent of the one from Metal Gear Solid V.
James was walking a little too close to the edge of the platform in an East London train station. The momentum of the train caused him to lose his balance, resulting in James falling between two carriages. His friends pulled the train alarm and another man found him underneath the train car. He was then air lifted to Royal London Hospital. The unfortunate accident required twelve operations and left him in an induced coma for twelve days in order to stabilize him and protect his brain function.
James spent almost four months in the hospital, and was sent home with a standard issue “ugly, peach-colored, and obvious” prosthetic arm and leg. The arm was also equipped with a hook instead of a hand, which limited the functionality of it. James also stated that “…the prostheses are operated by straps and strings, which is uncomfortable to do on a traumatically amputated stump.”
James went through a lot of unhappiness and struggle while attempting to adjust to everyday life with his prosthetic limbs, and endured multiple phantom pains and constant fatigue from painkillers. It wasn’t until about a year ago that he finally caught a break. He decided to answer an ad from gaming company Konomi about testing a prosthetic limb. It was fitting since he was a gamer and still used his good arm to play video games.
The futuristic prosthetic arm connects to nerves and muscles in the shoulder. It also uses ground-breaking robotics and the most up to date aesthetics in order to provide a customized and comfortable fit. Sensors in the prosthetic arm detect muscle signals from the body. Everything is connected to a harness across James’s body and operates off of one battery.
Sophie De Oliveira Barata, creator of the Alternative Limb Project, fit the prosthetic arm for James. She had previously worked on special effects in multiple films. Open Bionics also helped with the bionic arm by creating the hand with a 3D printer. The hand functions much more like a regular hand, unlike the standard issue NHS prosthetics that don’t have working fingers attached. James now has a hand that can even pick up items as small as a coin, all due to his shoulder muscles sending signals to the arm’s sensors.
“It gives me a hand, and not a device. It’s soft, but firm, so it’s really nice to shake!”
The arm also has additional features and functions, such as a USB port to charge his cell phone, a smart watch, colorful lights, and even a drone. Even though the prosthetic arm was inspired by Snake’s bionic arm in Metal Gear Solid 5, James wanted to make sure that the arm looked right for him, and not something that was taken straight from a movie set.
“I didn’t want to look like The Terminator because my job involves talking to doctors about the drugs they use. I didn’t want to look as if I’m going to kill someone.”
James does have to remove his prosthetic arm to do things such as shower. It does also require some tweaks and check ups every now and then since it is still a prototype. The bionic style arm weighs around ten pounds and that doesn’t include the battery, harness, and tons of heavy gel used in order to mount the arm onto his body. Needless to say, it’s heavy to carry around all day.
There are still many upgrades that could be done to the arm, such as titanium implants to secure it to the body and adding in the ability to wave like a regular hand. Unfortunately, James still regularly uses a wheelchair since standing on his prosthetic leg is painful. He is trying to get titanium implants for his leg, but it is currently only offered to military amputees. He has started a gofundme campaign in order to obtain the titanium implants.
You can check out James’s BBC Documentary here, and watch an interview about this fascinating young man below.