When we went out shoe shopping recently, Catgirl and I took a rather odd detour from the parking structure to the shopping plaza. We went up the stairs and then up and down the wheelchair ramps twice.
You walk so fast now, she said.
A few weeks into wearing my new Plie 2.0 robotic leg and I am, indeed, a faster walker than before. Particularly downhill–the mechanics and control algorithm for this new leg making downhills so smooth (c-legs, on the other hand, are pretty choppy on the downhill).
In addition to wearing the new knee, I’m also wearing a Fitbit device to mark my number of steps and activity level. My graph over the past two weeks shows some pretty dramatic changes from where I was several months ago (my daily step average increasing from 3483 to 4819 since August):
I’ve noticed only one small glitch with the new knee and that’s that when I have a long stretch of evenly-paced steps, after a few hundred paces it will hiccup a bit and I’ll end up dragging my toe for one step. I imagine that this is some kind of firmware bug that can be ironed out. But it’s a small glitch, and certainly livable except that it tends to affect my full trust of the limb (for the few steps after each hiccup I find myself reticent to put my full weight into a step).
Overall, the new knee technology is even better than I imagined. I still limp and I’m not (yet) running hurdles, but it’s a dramatic improvement over what I had before (yay, technology).
When I go through the “TSA personal massage” process, the agents giving the patdown are usually skeeved when they feel my right calf and foot, which are textured to feel like real flesh and bone. I’ve been told that it gives them the “chills” to feel something so real and know that it’s not. Or, as has happened more than once, they assume that my titanium thigh (which is evident as hard metal even through clothing) is somehow connected to a real flesh-and-bone knee, calf, and foot).
This may or may not be so – it’s difficult to be sure, in what are arguably still early days of this particular kind of human augmentation, but again, I would take this a step further: that, as both Jenny and I have argued, what makes us the most uneasy right now about human augmentation is the idea that it might make people – especially people with disabilities – better than abled humans. We can usually stomach humans with close relationships to objects and machines, provided they don’t begin to transgress the boundary that not only delineates a category but defines that category as an ideal.
I don’t yet have bionics that rival an organic limb, but I welcome that day and I assume that it’s not far away. For now, my fake-leg-wishlist includes the ability to add a wifi hotspot and a USB port for charging my phone. I’m not far off from that goal, either–my awesome friend Scott has already built up a prototype of the USB-adapter leg with my old bionic knee.
And once that’s in place I suppose that I’ll even let my friends charge their devices off of my battery once in awhile. Because I’m nice like that and I feel a little bit sorry for the rest of you that don’t have awesome bionic peripherals like mine. 😉