Scaly, feathery alternative limbs leap the uncanny valley into the future of prosthetic design
by Patch O'Furr
The mention of an amputee flaunting a showy, bird-plumaged prosthetic arm should make the Furry connection clear, in this story about the work of the Alternative Limb Project (ALP) and it’s director, Sophie de Oliveira Barata.
De Oliveira Barata is “challenging the belief that prosthetic limbs should aim to look as realistic as possible.” Her career started in special effects for film and TV, before she moved to work with a realistic prosthetics company for eight years. In her opinion:
The dominant thinking is that a new limb should be as close a match to the previous limb as possible. But until technology gets to the point where you can have a realistic looking limb in movement and aesthetics, there will always be this uncanny middle ground. Having an alternative limb embraces difference and can help create a sense of ownership and empowerment.
The new option for limbs include crystal, stereo speakers, lighting, and simulated internal anatomy to tranform disability-concealers into creative, eye-catching fashion. What’s next, hooves and paws?
Fursuit-owning readers may appreciate why, as custom-designed pieces, these limbs do not come cheap, with a cost between $4,600 and $21,000. In Britain, government health funding is dedicated only to realistic prosthetics. But De Oliveira Barata argues that alternative prostheses could be just as beneficial. It opens the imagination to a whacky sci-fi future where species-transition could be as acceptable as gender reassignment. Until then, artists, designers and biomedical engineers can explore creative inspiration and improve the lives of patients with this new kind of prosthetics.