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What is Next Nature?

With our attempts to cultivate nature, humankind causes the rising of a next nature, which is wild and unpredictable as ever. Wild systems, genetic surprises, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers. Nature changes along with us.

Deliver us from Skeuomorph Prosthetics

Deliver us from Skeuomorph Prosthetics

No, this is not another example in our fake for real series, comparing an artificial with a human hand. Rather, you are looking at twice the same hand: with and without its casing. The design of artificial hands has improved significantly over time and the depicted Fluidhand, created by researchers from Karlsruhe, is perhaps the most advanced prosthetic hand available today.

Yet, one wonders why the designers or artificial limbs always stick to the somewhat boring and predictable simulations of the human limbs they are replacing. If you have lost your hand and you need a prosthesis, why no grasp the opportunity to go for an upgrade?

Wouldn’t it be liberating if disabled people could receive more creative (and advanced) limb replacements? Think for example of a prosthesis with an integrated GPS–compass, MP3–player, USB–stick, smartphone or a fashionable eight finger octopus design? Yes, yes, we are aware non-prosthetic people might be slightly scared off – or even experience signs of anthorpomorphobia – at the sight of a prosthetic that doesn’t try to look like the human limb it is replacing. But then again, a faked plastic hand, that desperately tries to look like an original human hand but never really makes it, also causes uncanny feelings. So why not create something that’s better, or at least different than the real thing?

Please deliver us from the skeuomorph prosthetic designs, in which the visual appearance of the original human limb is retained merely as an ornament of a lost functionality. Wouldn’t it be much for empowering to transform the disabled into the enabled?

Related: Bionic Woman, High heels, Ear on your arm: why not?, USB finger.


  1. cryptozoologist

    anyone interested in this subject would be interested in this interview:
    wherein the subject of the interview complains about prosthetics that are designed to look good rather than be functional. after hearing it, i thought about a sculpted hand that is perpetually holding an iphone type device as something that would be easy to engineer, be useful and look natural, or perhaps nextnatural.

  2. Thanks for sharing, cryptozoologist. I like the idea behind the ‘Open Prosthetics Project’.

  3. Industrial designers in our midst, why not get your selves involved in Open Source Prosthetic Design? http://www.openprosthetics.org/

  4. And if you’re a ‘user’, maybe you want to join in the discourse going on at the Pimp-My-Arm forum > http://groups.google.com/group/openprosthetics/web/pimp-my-arm

  5. Hi Koert,
    Thank you for the inclusion of my review of the historic developments of the bionic hand, but I might soon add a few other chapters to my article: http://www.handresearch.com/news/bionic-hands-prosthetics-i-limb-saeboflex-fluidhand.htm
    For, actually … last month a new step in ‘prosthetic hand’ was introduced by researchers from Italy and Sweden. They “claim they have developed the first ever robotic hand that gives amputees a sense of touch”, which they named… ‘the SmartHand’!
    Source: http://www.metro.co.uk/tech/article.html?Robotic_hand_gives_amuptees_a_sense_of_touch&in_article_id=755055&in_page_id=150
    Anyway, thanks again!!

  6. … Hey Koert, I have finally updated my article with 2 news items from october + december 2009!
    See: http://www.handresearch.com/news/bionic-hands-prosthetics-i-limb-saeboflex-fluidhand.htm#smarthand
    By the way, what do you have in mind with the aspect of ‘skeuomorphism’? Do you relate that to Touch Bionics’ “LIVINGSKIN” product?
    See: http://www.touchbionics.com/LIVINGSKIN
    But I think I am willing to question if even that product is really an example of ‘skeuomorphism’ … for, every aspect of that product is so ‘functional’ – especially in term of social interactions!!
    (While the main characteristic of any ‘skeuomorphism’ appears to be … that it has certain DESIGN aspects which have: no obvious function at all…!!! Right?)

  7. You are right Martijn, if one interprets the human-skin-like look of the prosthetic as ‘functional’ (in the sense that it helps them to become socially acceptable) it is not a skeuomorph really. Yet, my point was that there are so many more interesting and spectacular possibilities for prosthetics if only we could get rid of the habit of trying to fake the lost limb.

  8. farmerchic

    Hey there, my brother (and best friend) recently cut a couple fingers off due to an accident with a saw. He’s looking into prosthetics very similar to these. Anyone know HOW he might become willing guinea-pig or to be put on a list to try this rockin’ device? thanks and peace-F