It is one of the most iconic and memorable scenes in cinema history; Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader facing off in an epic lightsaber duel on a precarious (and slightly janky-looking) walkway in the depths of the Death Star’s engineering core. A true battle of good versus evil, the vast majority of us know how it ends, but in the midst of that tense struggle young Skywalker loses a hand to the crimson blade of *spoiler alert* his estranged father’s weapon. They say history repeats itself, and this is evidenced even with this sequence of events, as Anakin Skywalker also lost an arm (and his legs…and pretty much everything else for that matter) at a pivotal point earlier in George Lucas’ pantheon.
To reiterate - two generations of the Skywalker family at some point or another, have sported prosthetic hands and have been enabled via the science and technology of the Star Wars universe’s greatest minds to live normal, fulfilling lives even after sustaining life-changing injuries. Naturally, the terms normal and fulfilling are used in the loosest possible sense.
But what of the realities of losing a limb? How well do the mechanical appendages afforded by the Star Wars universe measure up to real-world examples of replacement hands? The image of prosthetics has undergone something of a makeover in recent times, and the technologies employed in the field are cutting edge. Probably not quite as fantastical as those displayed in the recent Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (in which the protagonist also sports an artificial hand), but certainly more impressive than the general idea of a claw or hook. Here’s a run-down of the world’s most advanced examples of prosthetic hands.
Steeper’s bebionic range of artificial hands really are at the forefront of the industry. The range does fit the futuristic, almost robotic stereotype of what many people would expect a fully programmable and moveable artificial hand to look like, but it sports some incredible features. The bebionic has a great range of movement and has 14 different pre-programmable configurations, and also give the user the strength to crush a metal can; but likewise the ability to carefully pick up an egg without breaking it. Furthermore, Steeper offer a ‘glove’ which can be placed over the unit so it looks more like a human hand (and less awesome, in my opinion!)
Touch Bionics’ flagship prosthetic hand is the i-limb ultra, a hand with similar physical appearance to the appendages of Sonny the robot (as seen in the 2004 movie I, Robot). The i-limb isn’t science fiction though, it is science fact, and is the only prosthetic hand currently available that allows the wearer the ability to change the grip style on the fly with gestures through the patented i-mo technology. The i-limb range also has an iOS app for managing grip types, wireless and Bluetooth connectivity.
Where the prosthetics from Alatheia differ from the others in terms of functionality, they are light years ahead in terms of aesthetic design. The other hands featured here are mainly geared towards realistic manoeuvrability, and as such do look decidedly robotic. Alatheia however, offers the wearer an amazingly realistic looking prosthetic, where everything down to the fingerprints, nails and even skin pores can be accurately modelled. Constructed mainly from silicone, these hands don’t offer the same level of dexterity as the others here, but are practically indistinguishable from the real thing.
OK, so this isn’t a real prosthetic, but as alluded to in the intro to this article, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s main protagonist Jack Mitchell is fitted with an artificial arm after an accident in the opening level leads to his injury and honourable discharge from the U.S. Marines. He loses his best friend, Will Irons in the melee but also gains a mentor and adoptive father figure in Jonathan Irons (played by Kevin Spacey), the head of Atlus Corporation – a multinational private military outfit with a colossal budget and technology divisions advanced enough to create an arm that easily bests anything a standard issue flesh and blood appendage could do. The Atlus arm offers increased strength and a whole host of other perks, and is probably the only good thing Atlus is responsible for by the end of the solo campaign!