James Young trying on his cyber-arm for the first time.

James Young trying on his cyber-arm for the first time. [Image: GoFundMe]

Four years ago London resident James Young fell under a commuter train during a freak accident that changed his life forever. The accident left Young, then 22 years old, without a left arm or a left leg below the knee, and required more than twelve surgeries to rebuild his body and face. He has been struggling to deal with such a sudden and traumatic change to his life ever since. He was originally given a basic arm prosthetic that had a utility hook on the arm, however it was painful to wear and operate, and Young felt that it was ugly and conspicuous so he tended to do without. But his life changed completely when he saw an ad from video game producer Konami looking for gamer amputees.

Young had always been a gamer, and learning to game with one arm had been a struggle for him. One his his favorite video game characters is Punished Snake from the Metal Gear Solid series, and the character took on more of a special meaning to him when it was revealed in the game that Snake lost his arm. Konami was hoping to find an amputee who would be interested in helping them develop a new, state of the art prosthetic limb that they were developing as a tie-in for the launch of Metal Gear Solid 5.

Young attaching his bionic arm to the harness that holds it in place.

Young attaching his bionic arm to the harness that holds it in place.

The new arm was designed and custom-built for Young and would combine state of the art technology, including advanced robotics that would be controlled with a set of sensors attached to his shoulder muscles. It would be designed by Sophie De Oliveira Barata, a world renowned alternative prosthetics artist and founder of the Alternative Limb Project, who is most famous for helping amputee pop star Viktoria Modesta design her incredible, show-stopping prosthesis. Because Young was a fan of video games, and Konami was footing the bill, the arm is a futuristic cyber-limb that looks like it came straight out of a science fiction movie.

Sensors that operate the hand are attached to his back under the harness.

The sensors that operate James bionic hand are attached to his back under the harness.

The arm that Barata created combines sleek metal lines with LED lights and enough gadgets and gizmos to make any tech nerd happy. The cyborg arm includes a laser pointer, a flashlight, a built-in watch and it even has a USB port so he can charge his cell phone. Oh, and just for fun Barata included an RC drone in the shoulder of the arm that can fly around and keep Young entertained. The arm is held onto Young’s body via a black harness, which also houses the sensors that work the arm and hand.

While the look and the feel of the arm was up to Barata, who really did give Young a cybernetic limb right out of a video game, the hand itself was designed by cutting-edge bionic limb company Open Bionics. The hand was a customized variant of their award-winning 3D printable bionic, prosthetic hand. It is a remarkably sophisticated robotic device, and when it has been properly tuned it can lift anything from a bag of groceries to objects as small as coins or pens. And despite looking like it is all metal, the hand is actually made of a soft material that is comfortable to shake, something that is clearly important to the cheery and good-natured Young. It is certainly a better option than the hook arm that the NHS, the British healthcare system, sent him home with.

The new arm versus the old arm.

The new arm versus the old arm. [Image: GoFundMe]

Since the arm is a prototype, it isn’t a perfect replacement for what he lost. It does need to be removed regularly so he can shower or sleep, and at ten pounds the weight is quite a bit of a load for him to manage for long periods of time. The harness itself is also uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time, so he often needs to give himself a break. And since new technology isn’t ever going to work perfectly, the hand and arm do need to be brought in for servicing occasionally, but all of that hasn’t diminished Young’s enthusiasm for his new prosthetic limb.

In fact, his Metal Gear Solid arm is only the first of several planned cybernetic enhancements that he is looking into. His next prosthetic will be a bionic leg that will be physically integrated into his body. Essentially doctors will implant a titanium rod into his leg bone that will eventually become fused with the bone itself. His prosthetic will attach to that rod, and he will have less pain and discomfort, be able to move more naturally and bear more weight on his leg. He is also planning on getting a similar procedure done to his shoulder that would allow the arm to be connected directly to his body, eliminating the uncomfortable harness.

James Youngs arm was inspired by popular Konami videogame character Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid 5.

James Young’s arm was inspired by the popular Konami video game character Solid Snake as he appeared in Metal Gear Solid 5.

Unfortunately none of these advanced prosthetic surgeries are covered by the UK’s NHS, so the $130,000 price tag will be entirely up to Young to come up with. To help off-set those astronomical costs he has set up a GoFundMe page. The BBC recently aired a special documentary about Young and the design of his prosthetic arm called Bodyhack: Metal Gear Man. Young comes off as a really sweet kid who is struggling to keep a brave face up while dealing with something that would be hard on anyone. I’m not ashamed to admit that it got a little dusty in my office when Young was able to meet a large group of amputees for the first time. Discuss this wonderful story further in the 3D Printed Prosthetic for Gamer forum over at 3DPB.com.

You can see both parts of the excellent documentary here:

Part two:

[Source/Images: Daily Mail]

James Youngs arm was inspired by popular Konami videogame character Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid 5.

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