James Sides has received a robotic hand, the first of its kind, as a gift from the Alfred Mann Foundation.

The world of medicine got a dose of futurism as a retired staff sergeant received a gift from the Alfred Mann Foundation. James Sides was a staff sergeant on his second tour of Afghanistan when he suffered a horrible accident. He’d uncovered an IED in the road, and was working to dismantle it when the device exploded. Sides completely lost his right hand, and he went blind in one eye.

That’s where the Alfred Mann Foundation offered to help. The charity plays a central role in developing institutes to further the study of robotics, but it also supports the outreach efforts required to test those products. The Foundation located Sides and offered him the robotic prosthetic. They also enlisted Rich Davis and the team at Rogers & Cowan to help bring awareness to this historic occasion.

They surgically embedded sensors inside of Sides’ forearm. These sensors are designed to interpret the movement of his muscles, so that it can output that data and move the extremities of his hand. He has three ranges of motion, including opening and closing his palm and rotating his wrist. The hand is also pressure sensitive, so it can stop clutching someone else’s hand firmly during a handshake.

Sides can now enjoy some sense of normalcy in his life. He still needs to think about tasks before he does them, but he’s able to get back to living instead of struggling to perform basic functions. Sides is one of seven total test cases, which the Alfred Mann Foundation hopes will provide more data on how these devices work.

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