New Prosthetics From MIT Transmit Sensory Information Like Real Limbs

Hugh Herr at the 2016 Princess of Asturias Awards ceremony in Spain.
Hugh Herr at the 2016 Princess of Asturias Awards ceremony in Spain.
Miguel Riopa, AFP/Getty Images

Bionic limbs that can be controlled by the wearer's natural electrical signals have been around for a while, but prosthetics that send information the other direction—transmitting sensations to the nervous system—are less common. In a talk given at TED 2018 in Vancouver, an engineer and double-amputee presented a new type of technology that does exactly that, Fast Company reports.

Hugh Herr lost both his legs below the knees after contracting frostbite during a mountain climbing accident in 1992. Today, he's in charge of the Biomechatronics Group at MIT Media Lab where he and his team develop high-tech prosthetics that can help people like him.

The synthetic legs Herr currently wears are sophisticated: Outfitted with around 24 sensors and six microprocessors, they can detect subtle electric signals from his nervous system and move accordingly. But the sensation of stepping forward, or stepping on something soft rather than hard, is still muted. (This lack of footstep feedback has been a problem for people with paralyzed limbs testing exoskeletons as well.)

With the new technology from MIT, a prosthetic foot would send the wearer sensory feedback about their environment similar to how a flesh-and-blood limb would. For this so-called neuro-embodied design to work, the way doctors treat amputee patients first needs to change. The current protocol with amputations is to truncate the tendons and nerve endings where the limb ends to lessen sensation there. For a patient interested in using MIT's prosthetics, doctors would need to leave those nerves and muscles alone so they can connect to the new limb and continue to transmit sensations.

Herr's friend Jim Ewing, a fellow mountain climber, became the first person to receive the new amputation treatment and the high-tech prosthetic last year. With his new integrated synthetic foot, he can now navigate complicated terrain like steps using sensation alone, and he can even climb cliff faces.

The technology is potentially life-changing for people who have lost a limb, but Herr says it's not limited to that group. He envisions a future where cyborgs are a part of everyday life. "I believe humans will become superheroes," Herr said in his TED talk. "During the twilight years of this century, I believe humans will be unrecognizable in morphology and dynamics from what we are today."

[h/t Fast Company]

This Innovative Cutting Board Takes the Mess Out of Meal Prep

There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
TidyBoard, Kickstarter

Transferring food from the cutting board to the bowl—or scraps to the compost bin—can get a little messy, especially if you’re dealing with something that has a tendency to roll off the board, spill juice everywhere, or both (looking at you, cherry tomatoes).

The TidyBoard, available on Kickstarter, is a cutting board with attached containers that you can sweep your ingredients right into, taking the mess out of meal prep and saving you some counter space in the process. The board itself is 15 inches by 20 inches, and the container that fits in its empty slot is 14 inches long, 5.75 inches wide, and more than 4 inches deep. Two smaller containers fit inside the large one, making it easy to separate your ingredients.

Though the 4-pound board hangs off the edge of your counter, good old-fashioned physics will keep it from tipping off—as long as whatever you’re piling into the containers doesn’t exceed 9 pounds. It also comes with a second set of containers that work as strainers, so you can position the TidyBoard over the edge of your sink and drain excess water or juice from your ingredients as you go.

You can store food in the smaller containers, which have matching lids; and since they’re all made of BPA-free silicone, feel free to pop them in the microwave. (Remove the small stopper on top of the lid first for a built-in steaming hole.)

tidyboard storage containers
They also come in gray, if teal isn't your thing.

Not only does the bamboo-made TidyBoard repel bacteria, it also won’t dull your knives or let strong odors seep into it. In short, it’s an opportunity to make cutting, cleaning, storing, and eating all easier, neater, and more efficient. Prices start at $79, and it’s expected to ship by October 2020—you can find out more details and order yours on Kickstarter.

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The EatOkra App Makes It Easy to Find—and Support—Black-Owned Restaurants in Your Neighborhood

Daria Shevtsova, Pexels
Daria Shevtsova, Pexels

The recent movement for racial justice has inspired a number of changes in American life. One new development is in how some people are spending their money. In the month following George Floyd's death while in police custody, Yelp searches for Black-owned businesses skyrocketed by 1785 percent. As Kristen Adaway reports for Thrillist, an app called EatOkra makes it easy to turn supporting Black-owned businesses into a lifelong habit.

Anthony Edwards Jr. and Janique Bradley, now husband and wife, launched EatOkra in 2016. The app started as a directory of Black-owned restaurants in Brooklyn, and today it lists businesses under Black ownership in Chicago, Los Angeles, and other cities across the U.S.

Instead of using Seamless or Grubhub, users can search EatOkra for restaurants by location and cuisine. The restaurant pages that show up list information like phone number, address, hours, and user reviews. If the business offers delivery, there may even be links for diners to place online orders through outside apps.

"Gathering and food play a key role in defining our sense of community, and EatOkra provides users with a tool that gives them an opportunity to locate these communities and support them in some way," EatOkra's website reads. "Nothing embodies this idea of community more than the act of feeding someone or coming together to eat or be fed."

Since rolling out four years ago, EatOkra has amassed more than 150,000 users. You can start connecting to the 2600 Black-owned businesses in its directory by downloading the app for free today.

[h/t Thrillist]