It’s believed that the earliest artificial body part was discovered is dated to around 300 B.C. As you would imagine, early artificial body parts or prosthetics were clunky, ugly and gave limited dexterity.
Today, artificial body parts can mimic natural movement and provide a higher level of functionality for those who need it. There is also emphasis on a more natural look to make them as stylish as they are practical. The field, called biomechanics, combines biology, physics, chemistry, computer science and mathematics.
Origins of the term: from bi (as in “life”) + onics (as in “electronics”); the study of mechanical systems that function like living organisms or parts of living organisms
From fingers, to hands, arms, legs, eyes or kidneys, the growing list of bio-parts available right now is producing functionality once only dreamed about in Hollywood productions. One prosthetics company, Otto Bock HealthCare, has a promo video on their website that features a man fitted with a leg prosthetic. It’s an awe inspiring video that shows him accomplishing several different types of everyday activities. One scene has him riding a jet-ski then cuts to another scene of him moutain biking, then he’s off hiking in the woods. He wears a Otto Bock X3 prosthetic leg which comes with a battery supply that lasts five days before it needs recharging. The leg itself contains technology like motors, a motion sensor, microprocessor chips and is completely waterproof.
A large number of these research projects are funded by the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA. Numerous breakthrough technologies are being developed through this public-private collaboration. By making pivotal funding investments into various research projects, DARPA is enabling medical advances that bring close to natural function for an expanding list of conditions. With funding from DARPA, scientists are also looking into developing other artificial body parts like a neural chip that will restore active memory in patients with memory deficits caused by diseases like Alzheimer's or injury. The project is headed by UCLA and University of Pennsylvania which will develop and test electronic interfaces that can sense memory lost by injury or disease and attempt to restore normal function. Other projects include a hand prosthesis that allows the user to feel sensations like hardness or softness, shape and size.