PAOLA ANTONELLI: You’re looking at a groundbreaking robotic ankle developed by Hugh Herr from M.I.T. Previous prosthetic ankles required the wearer to exert at least 30% more energy than needed for a normal human ankle; but Herr’s ankle requires only the same amount.
The piece is designed to help people with disabilities. But it also has potentially wider uses in improving human life and expanding the capabilities of those whose bodies are considered to be “normally” functioning and it teaches us about our bodies and how we interact with the world.
Peter Galison is a professor of history, philosophy and physics at Harvard:
PETER GALISON: In sports there's been a long-standing debate about where the boundary between the natural and the artificial is. We see it every day with scandals about the use of blood doping, and steroids, and other enhancements.
But we have all sorts of things that we do to our bodies all the time, artificially. Whether, you know, we're wearing glasses or taking aspirin.
And when you begin to think of it that way, then maybe there isn't this pure state that we've fallen from instead, I think that we probably would be better off taking it as given that we've been modifying our body with prostheses in all sorts of ways for a very long time.
PAOLA ANTONELLI: The end game is bionic woman and bionic man it’s science fiction but not so far from reality. We're going towards empowering our bodies, our machines that we were endowed with we're trying to endow them with more power than they normally have when we're born.