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Science Technology

Bluetooth Prosthetics Help US Marine To Walk Again 127

Like2Byte writes "CNN is reporting that a US Marine who lost both his legs in Iraq is now able to walk again by using bluetooth technology to coordinate his leg movement. The two legs communicate to keep the man in motion. ' [...] Computer chips in each leg send signals to motors in the artificial joints so the knees and ankles move in a coordinated fashion. Bleill's set of prosthetics [legs] have Bluetooth receivers strapped to the ankle area. The Bluetooth device on each leg tells the other leg what it's doing, how it's moving, whether walking, standing or climbing steps, for example.'"
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Bluetooth Prosthetics Help US Marine To Walk Again

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  • by kwabbles ( 259554 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @04:48PM (#22186538)
    Will he reflex-kick me in the head?
  • olympics (Score:1, Insightful)

    by KevMar ( 471257 )
    Another fine gentalman that they will not allow to partisipate in the olympics.
    • Re:olympics (Score:5, Funny)

      by Joe the Lesser ( 533425 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @04:59PM (#22186710) Homepage Journal

      Another fine gentalman that they will not allow to partisipate in the olympics.
      Yea, I couldn't participate either, and I have *real* legs. What the hell.
    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      Maybe they'd let him drive his motorized wheelchair in the hundred meter race before he got his cyborg legs? I think when his legs got blown off that would have pretty much disqualified him from most sports.

      Speaking of sports, why is it OK for a baseball player to get eye surgery to bring his vision to better than 20/20, but it's not ok for him to take steroids? Would they he ok with muscles surgically grafted onto his arms and legs?

      Why is surgery ok but not drugs?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by zippthorne ( 748122 )

        Why is surgery ok but not drugs?

        You know the reason, but you're being obtuse because you want to juice. It's not really about the legality or illegality of steroid use, though your Congressmen (and women) would like you to believe that. It's more about the trade-offs. Like Tyrell symbionts, the star that burns twice as bright burns half as long.

        Using steroids improves performance for the player during his career at the cost of debilitating medical problems down the line. It reduces both quality and quan

        • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
          you're being obtuse because you want to juice

          Jesse? Is that you? ;) But no, I honestly don't know the reason. I do know that most of our drug laws were passed disingenuously. This seems just as disingenuous to me. performance enhansing drugs are supposed to give an unfair advantage, well, so does surgery. They say "Babe Ruth did it on hot dogs and beer", well he never had eye surgery to improve his vision, why shouldn't record breaking hitters who have had surgery get asterisks by their names as well? And a
  • Bluetooth?! (Score:4, Informative)

    by LinuxGeek ( 6139 ) * <djand DOT nc AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 25, 2008 @04:51PM (#22186586)
    I hope they don't fall down when they walk past a microwave oven. I know my bt headset drops info while talking around my microwave. I hope the final devices are a bit more robust.
    • by Gyga ( 873992 )
      Your headset is level with the microwave, your ankles hopefully aren't level with the microwave. Couldn't they just run a wire up what is left of his legs and connect them at his waist instead relying on bluetooth?
      • by barzok ( 26681 )
        Well, they could, but that's one more thing to have to disconnect/reconnect.

        Besides, isn't it more fun to make your legs move from across the room?
        • by Gyga ( 873992 )
          It would probably be hard to make them walk when they aren't connected to each other. When a person walks one leg supports the weight of the other leg while it is moved in front, each leg doesn't hope around on its own.
          • each leg doesn't hope around on its own
            That's just because they haven't been trained/programmed to do so. I'm sure many folks here would would be perfectly capable of making it happen.
    • Re:Bluetooth?! (Score:5, Informative)

      by KublaiKhan ( 522918 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @05:06PM (#22186844) Homepage Journal
      I do know that there's a proposed standard for Bluetooth specifically for medical devices--there are some pacemakers and ICDs out there (most of 'em these days, I understand) that have bluetooth built into 'em so that the doctors can read information off of 'em without having to place electrodes and whatnot--and also so that they can patch the firmware, if necessary.

      This is why they're using bluetooth, I think, rather than something else--because it's already used for similar medical device communications.
      • I just had an idea for an episode of Monk where someone is murdered by hacking into their pacemaker with Bluetooth and replacing the firmware with deathware. Monk figures it out because he's Monk and he's awesome.
      • I do know that there's a proposed standard for Bluetooth specifically for medical devices--there are some pacemakers and ICDs out there (most of 'em these days, I understand) that have bluetooth built into 'em so that the doctors can read information off of 'em without having to place electrodes and whatnot--and also so that they can patch the firmware, if necessary.

        There's still the question of what happens if somebody fuzzes [] their Bluetooth stack. And what happens if the pacemaker is in a high-profile go
      • by maxume ( 22995 )
        I wonder how many doctors out there are updating pacemaker firmware while they wait for their popcorn to pop?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      I personally find it remarkably stupid they are using bluetooth or wireless at all. There is a point near the crotch where a small wire can connect the two legs.

      also why the hell are they using bluetooth? other RF data modules are far easier to use in embedded processing and have a shorter range that is perfect for that use.

      The whole thing smells of a PR stunt to me.
  • How long do you suppose its going to take someone in a coffee shop to find that bluetooth connection and start sending signals to it?
    • Voodoo electronics, anyone? Kick someone in the backside, flip the finger, etc. It conjures up images of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz.

  • by Enleth ( 947766 ) <> on Friday January 25, 2008 @04:53PM (#22186622) Homepage
    Just imagine - no need for cellphone shoot-em-up games when you can use this direction stick on the keyboard to control a real Marine with Bluetooth!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AgentPaper ( 968688 ) *
      I'm reminded of an old BOFH episode [] in which the Bastard Operator straps a mobile SNMP controller to the boss's motorized wheelchair, and then lets another manager take a crack at his new "video game." All's fun and games till you miss that jump over the open manhole...
  • by jafo ( 11982 ) * on Friday January 25, 2008 @04:55PM (#22186650) Homepage
    The last thing most of us need is one more damn thing that you need to keep charged.

    Hello, AAA? Yeah, I'm in the supermarket parking lot and I need a jump-start...

    • You hit the nail on the head. I have been thinking that for the last four days since I had lost the charger to my leg. The damn thing is in safety mode making it a pain in the ass to walk. *Sigh* It makes me miss my old non-robo leg that used plan old hydrolics instead of the DYNAMIC hydrolics of this one. If I look around I should be able to find the cigarette-car-lighter plug in. But unfortunately I haven't seen it in a year.

      I find it a bit funky how my doctor did the initia

  • A handsome young Cyborg named Ace,
    Wooed women at every base,
    But once ladies glanced at
    His special enhancement
    They vanished with nary a trace.

    Barracks Graffiti
    Sparta Command
  • Why Bluetooth? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Surely a simple thin wire run from the knee to belt to other knee would have worked just as well.

    I can't think Bluetooth really added much to the basic functionality.
    • Why Bluetooth? I think the doctor just figured out a way to "perform maintenance surgery" on the guy every two years for the rest of his life. Pure brilliance!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Radon360 ( 951529 )

        My only guess is that Bluetooth hardware was available "off the shelf" therefore simplfying the design time for the wireless link. It's questionable if this was wise, considering the proliferation of Bluetooth devices. I know I'd be a little upset if the legs that I depended on were covered under FCC part 15, particularly the part stating "this device must accept interference, even if it causes undesired operation."

        FWIW, I don't think the BT is actually implanted, so regular surgeries for battery changes

  • by Radon360 ( 951529 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @04:59PM (#22186716)

    I think it's great that they've improved the functionality of these prostheses, but I find it rather dumb that the batteries that power them are not user replaceable. They've added some "whiz bang" at the cost of what would be now considered a standard functional issue of any consumer electronics device. I know someone with a prosthetic arm, which has replaceable Li-Ion packs, why would having removeable batteries be any different in this case? Then again, maybe I am incorrectly interpreting "no spare batteries available" as not user replaceable, instead of the design of these batteries are two-of-a-kind and no additional ones have been manufactured at this point.

    (Apologies for the puns in the title.)

  • Black Hats (Score:5, Funny)

    by martinmcc ( 214402 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @05:00PM (#22186722) Homepage
    I wouldn't be going to any black hat conventions if I was him.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      Yes, lets pick on the Marine. I'm sure him and his battle experienced friend would take it in stride.
      When your car explodes, don't be surprised.

      • GP does make a point, though... Any info on the security measures on this? Is there any verification system in place to make sure the legs are doing what the user wants them to, not what someone else wants? As humans begin to incorporate artificial, computerized parts into their bodies, the potential for mischief grows wildly.
  • Wii? (Score:5, Funny)

    by IronMagnus ( 777535 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @05:02PM (#22186754)
    So... can we expect Nintendo to make a Wii soccer game for him?
  • Every time I step near a busy road with my BT headphones, I start losing connectivity because the bt band is overloaded.

    How will this guy cross the road? on his hands?
  • What a weird use for wireless communication - why wouldn't a wire do a better cheaper job?
    • Re:Weird (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Digital_Quartz ( 75366 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @05:13PM (#22186934) Homepage
      That was my initial reaction too. But, he lost his legs just above the knee, so the routing of the wire would either have to cross empty space somewhere, or else route up one leg, into the crotch of his trousers, and down the other leg. On the one hand, I can see either of those routings having issues, practical or comfort related. But still, seems like it would be worth it considering the advantages the wired version would give you in terms of reliability and battery longevity.
      • Thanks for clearing that up. I was confused too - so the legs are talking to each other then? I guess that makes sense since they probably wouldn't do such a great job if they acted independently of one another. I agree that a wired rendition makes more sense from an engineering perspective, but it would make some basic stuff like putting on clothes a little more cumbersome than the prosthetics already are. Perhaps the design motivation here is psychological - kind of like the benefit of complicated pro
        • by Kelbear ( 870538 )
          The wire isn't so complicated, running it through a jockstrap over the boxers would be enough to keep it from shuffling inside the pants.

          But having a wire pressed up against your gooch for long periods of time will definitely become a drain on the user's patience.
    • by sholden ( 12227 )
      Because running a wire up the remaining above knee leg, around the crotch, and back down the other remaining above knee leg would be a PITA. Running it directly would make for tripping over or break the wire every time you stepped over something, though there are some features that might be useful for a marine: []
    • by Firehed ( 942385 )
      Price is hardly an issue with this kind of thing. A wire would certainly be more reliable, but then of course you have the inconvenience of a wire dangling out of your ass (which, I can only assume, is rather severe).
  • How fast can he run? Faster than a woman? (OK, for those who don't get the reference, it's from Bobby Bitman's movie "Chariot of Eggs".)
  • If these have a sensor inside that could detect falling over (which they must), you could have it set up to deliver an emergency "I've fallen and I can't get up" type message to a pc. A la new onstar vehicles. Maybe heart rate/blood pressure monitors as well. Could increase independence.
  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @05:05PM (#22186816) Homepage Journal
    Enjoy your new "restless leg" syndrome!
  • by vjmurphy ( 190266 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @05:07PM (#22186858) Homepage
    *walk* *walk* *walk*

    "Brain -> Legs: Bluetooth connection lost. Re-pairing"

  • If science fiction/fantasy has taught me anything, it's that cybernetic marines are AWESOME! Especially if there are any space demons nearby that need killing.
  • I, for one, welcome our new cybernetic overl...

    Hey wait a minute, I'm a cyborg! Never mind.
  • Lance Corporal Joshua Bleill, please report to the OCP building for your Detroit patroll briefing.
  • Fire! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2008 @05:20PM (#22187036)
    From TFA:

    Because of built-in motors, the Bluetooth legs allow Bleill to walk longer before he tires.

    "We've compared walking several laps in both sets of legs and one, your legs come out burning and tired and these, you know, you sometimes are not even breaking a sweat yet."

    The only downside is when his new legs are burning, it's because they used sony batteries.
    • Ahaha, whoever you are, that made me laugh :)
    • by skeeto ( 1138903 )

      The only downside is when his new legs are burning

      This would mean, of course, that he was lying about something. You know the rules: pants on fire and all. His legs would be lie detectors.

  • 'til someone hacks into his legs. W-w-w-why am I walking off this cliiiiiiiiiffffff....
  • He was given the legs so we can finally be rid of Chuck Norris.
    Once the OSI has accomplished that goal, they will turn the legs off.

  • Newsreel announcer: We have the ships. We have the weapons. We need soldiers. Soldiers like Lieutenant Stack Lumbreiser...
    Lt. Lumbreiser: Over the target area now, Captain.
    Newsreel announcer: ...and Captain Carmen Ibanez.
    Carmen: This is the captain speaking. All personnel prepare for drop.
    Newsreel announcer: Soldiers like Private Ace Levy and Lieutenant John Rico.
    Johnny Rico: Come on you apes, you wanna live forever?
    Newsreel announcer: We need you all. Service guarantees citizenship.
  • ...just got a lot more interesting.
  • I wonder how secure the wireless connection is. Could be good for some mean-spirited fun.
  • The technology — both in engineering as well as in management and other "humanities" — is our strength against the fanatics, who derive their considerable strength from their firm beliefs.

    This is why we have a chance to prevail, where Soviet Union failed, for example, for they had neither beliefs nor the technology...

  • Remote Control? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Safrax ( 697056 )
    If his legs get bluejacked does this make him the worlds first remote controlled human?
    • If his legs get bluejacked does this make him the worlds first remote controlled human?
      That depends on if the BT connection simply sends data updates about its position or if they tell each other what to do. I really don't know, but I doubt you could do much more than trip him.
  • Hmmmmm..... (Score:3, Funny)

    by IHC Navistar ( 967161 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @05:52PM (#22187440)
    The chips send signals to the artificial joints via bluetooth?

    To FORWARD WALK, press 1.
    To FORWARD RUN, press 2.
    To BACKWARD WALK, press 3.
    To BACKWARD RUN, press 4.
    To KICK LEFT, press 5.
    To KICK RIGHT, press 6.
    To move SIDEWAYS LEFT, press 7
    To move SIDEWAYS RIGHT, press 8

    If you have fallen and can't get up, press 9. An Operator will be with you shortly. Please hold, your call is important to us. Calls will be answered in the order they are recieved. (plays "Runnin' With The Devil" as hold music).

    If controls fail to respond, press CTRL+ALT+DEL.
  • I wonder if this technology can be mutated such that it can give people with spinal cord injuries similar locomotion. Mutated in such a way not to require amputation, of course. Interesting.
  • Yarrrr!!! (Score:2, Funny)

    by dburr ( 92379 )
    Shiver me timbers! I betcha Captain Bluetooth [] will be wantin' one of these to replace his peg leg!
  • Can he get some hacked firmware to make himself DDR world champ?
  • Marine: Yeah, the legs are miracles of science. They follow eachother and let me walk like I never thought possible Reporter: Wait wait waitwaitwait wait a minute. This uses BLUETOOTH?!
  • by spitzak ( 4019 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @06:52PM (#22188056) Homepage
    It's the wrong trousers, and they've gone wrong! Help!
  • Will it help him kill again? D:
  • Hope the security on these are good, otherwise...

    Grommit!! Help!! It's the WRONG PANTS!!!
  • I find the focus on Bluetooth in this article perverse. Yes, the legs communicate via Bluetooth, but they also *walk*. To me, *that's* the impressive part. I couldn't care less that it's Bluetooth or some other protocol.

    I will say, though, that it's encouraging as a general trend to see consumer-level technologies like this being used as plug-in components to cutting-edge research projects (like Johnny Lee's Wiimote awesomeness, for example). But hell... wake me up when I can build my own artificial l

  • All the algorithms, mechanical engineering, electronics, and software was frosting. What really made it happen was the 802.15.1 standard. It would never have worked if it was 802.11 or 802.15.4.

  • Let's sterilize him with unnecessary microwave RF, and use more batteries just so there won't be a couple wires!
  • This is great, whats losing a few legs, get these boys back into battle!
  • A way to let legless people walk again is invented and all Slashdotters can think of is lame bluetooth jokes?? I don't even know why I still come here.
  • This sounds like the perfect setup for a Wallace and Gromit "The Wrong Trousers" type situation. Last I heard, Bluetooth wasn't exactly known for its security. (Hence all the proprietary "wireless" devices with their own specific dongles.) Not really something you want in control of your body.

    God forbid the day comes when Tux decides a rubber glove makes a nice substitute for a red hat.
  • The biggest boon to the neuroscience had been WWII. So many people who survived brain damage were available to be researched that a major leap was made. It would appear that this war is actually causing a development in a number of life-comforting as well as life-saving medical technologies. Naom Chomsky is known for arguing that the main reason the society finances scientific research is to advance the efficiency of warfare. But, it's pretty clear that the advances made through the necessity that arise

Maybe you can't buy happiness, but these days you can certainly charge it.