It's worth watching this poor quality video of a video, taken at the 2007 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference. In it, Dean Kamen demonstrates his amazing new bionic arm.
The San Francisco Chronicle describes his motivation.
Kamen had been approached by a government official who requested his help to improve the current solution for soldiers who have lost their arms, which he said is currently not much more than a stick with a hook.Inspired by the tremendous courage he had seen, Kamen set out to develop the most advanced prosthetic ever. Obviously there are extremely precise control and feedback mechanisms, but just how the arm is controlled wasn't stated. Kamen did say that brain implants were a bad idea, although he's pursuing the idea of implants developed from stem cells which would be implanted elsewhere in the body.
"I don't need another mission," said Kamen, who visited the Walter Reed hospital a few weeks ago. "But I kept thinking of these kids with no arms."
In one instance, Kamen said, he met a soldier sitting at a table who said he was lucky because he had lost his left arm, not his right, dominant arm. Then the soldier pushed away from the table and Kamen said he was also missing his two legs.
For those that don't know, Dean Kamen is a superhero. His house, which he designed, is powered by a giant wind turbine which sits outside, alongside a fully-lit baseball diamond. In the garage are a Hummer, a Porsche and two helicopters. They sit on a giant turntable, Batman-style. He flies one of the choppers every day to his office a few minutes away at his research company DEKA. Kamen also owns an island off the coast of Connecticut, which he calls North Dumplinga. It has it's own currency and boasts a mutual non-aggression pact with the US signed by Mr Kamen and President Bush senior.
So, he's got money, supercool toys, a sense of humor and a brilliant mind that he's applied towards making the world a better place. The drug infusion pump, portable dialysis machine, and iBOT robotic wheelchair are some of his most notable inventions, and of course he's know as creator of the Segway.
Recognizing that the US has fallen behind much of the rest of the world in graduating engineers, he formed FIRST:For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Kamen saw that today's kids don't know a real hero from a celebrity, entertainer or sports figure, and created FIRST to attempt to change the culture. His vision is "To create a world where science and technology are celebrated... where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes" by using the metaphor of sports competition.
And he even holds his own on the Colbert Report. Dean Kamen ROCKS!!!