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  • It's not about technology, it's about people and stories.

  • I could show you what recently was

  • on television as a high quality video:

  • 60 Minutes, many of you may have seen it.

  • And it was the now director of the entire piece of the

  • veteran's administration--

  • who, himself, had lost an arm 39 years ago in Vietnam--

  • who was adamantly opposed to these crazy devices that don't work.

  • And it turns out that with 60 Minutes cameras rolling in the background,

  • after he pretty much made his position clear on this --

  • he had his hook and he had his --

  • he wore this arm for less than two hours

  • and was able to pour himself a drink and got quite emotional over the fact that, quote --

  • his quote --

  • it's the first time he's felt like he's had an arm in 39 years.

  • But that would sort of be jumping to the middle of the story,

  • and I'm not going to show you that polished video.

  • I'm going to, instead, in a minute or two,

  • show you an early, crude video

  • because I think it's a better way to tell a story.

  • A few years ago I was visited by the guy that runs DARPA,

  • the people that fund all the advanced technologies that

  • businesses and universities probably wouldn't take the risk of doing.

  • They have a particular interest in ones that will help our soldiers.

  • I get this sort of unrequested -- by me anyway -- visit,

  • and sitting in my conference room is a very senior surgeon

  • from the military and the guy that runs DARPA.

  • They proceed to tell me a story

  • which comes down to basically the following.

  • We have used such advanced technologies now

  • and made them available in the most remote places that we put soldiers:

  • hills of Afghanistan, Iraq ...

  • They were quite proud of the fact that you know,

  • before the dust clears,

  • if some soldier has been hurt they will have collected him or her,

  • they will have brought him back,

  • they will be getting world-class triage emergency care faster than you and I would be getting it

  • if we were hurt in a car accident in a major city in the United States.

  • That's the good news.

  • The bad news is

  • if they've collected this person and he or she is missing an arm or

  • leg, part of the face, it's probably not coming back.

  • So, they started giving me the statistics on how many of these kids had lost an arm.

  • And then the surgeon pointed out, with a lot of anger,

  • he said, "Why is it?

  • At the end of the Civil War, they were shooting each other with muskets.

  • If somebody lost an arm,

  • we gave them a wooden stick with a hook on it.

  • Now we've got F18s and F22s, and if somebody loses an arm,

  • we give them a plastic stick with a hook on it."

  • And they basically said, "This is unacceptable,"

  • and then the punchline:

  • "So, Dean, we're here because you make medical stuff.

  • You're going to give us an arm."

  • And I was waiting for the 500 pages of bureaucracy, paperwork and DODs.

  • No, the guy says,

  • "We're going to bring a guy into this conference room,

  • and wearing the arm you're going to give us,

  • he or she is going to pick up a raisin or a grape off this table.

  • If it's the grape, they won't break it."

  • Great he needs efferent, afferent, haptic response sensors.

  • "If it's the raisin, they won't drop it."

  • So he wants fine motor control:

  • flex at the wrist, flex at the elbow, abduct and flex at the shoulder.

  • Either way they were going to eat it.

  • "Oh, by the way Dean.

  • It's going to fit on a 50th percentile female frame --

  • namely 32 inches from the long finger -- and weigh less than nine pounds.

  • " 50th percentile female frame."

  • "And it's going to be completely self contained including all its power.

  • So, they finished that. And I, as you can tell, am a bashful guy.

  • I told them they're nuts.

  • (Laughter)

  • They've been watching too much "Terminator." (Laughter)

  • Then, the surgeon says to me,

  • "Dean, you need to know more than two dozen of these kids have come back bilateral.

  • "Now, I cannot imagine -- I'm sorry, you may have a better

  • imagination than I do -- I can't imagine losing my arm,

  • and typically at 22 years old.

  • But compared to that, losing two?

  • Seems like that would be an inconvenience.

  • Anyway, I went home that night. I thought about it. I literally could not sleep

  • thinking about, "I wonder how you'd roll over with no shoulders."

  • So, I decided we've got to do this.

  • And trust me, I've got a day job, I've got a lot of day jobs.

  • Most of my day job keeps me busy funding my fantasies like FIRST and water and power ....

  • And I've got a lot of day jobs.

  • But I figured I gotta do this.

  • Did a little investigation, went down to Washington, told them

  • I still think they're nuts but we're going to do it.

  • And I told them I'd build them an arm.

  • I told them it would probably take five years to get through the FDA,

  • and probably 10 years to be reasonably functional.

  • Look what it takes to make things like iPods.

  • "Great," he said, "You got two years."

  • I said, "I'll tell you what.

  • I'll build you an arm that's under nine pounds that has all that capability in one year.

  • It will take the other nine to make it functional and useful.

  • " We sort of agreed to disagree.

  • I went back and I started putting a team together,

  • the best guys I could find with a passion to do this.

  • At the end of exactly one year we had a device with 14 degrees of freedom,

  • all the sensors, all the microprocessors, all the stuff inside.

  • I could show you it with a cosmesis on it that's so real it's eerie,

  • but then you wouldn't see all this cool stuff.

  • I then thought it would be years before we'd

  • be able to make it really, really useful.

  • It turned out, as I think you could see in Aimee's capabilities and attitudes,

  • people with a desire to do something are quite remarkable and nature is quite adaptable.

  • Anyway, with less than 10 hours of use, two guys -- one that's bilateral.

  • He's literally, he's got no shoulder on one side,

  • and he's high trans-humeral on the other. And that's Chuck and Randy together,

  • after 10 hours -- were playing in our office.

  • And we took some pretty cruddy home movies.

  • At the end of the one I'm going to show,

  • it's only about a minute and a couple of seconds long,

  • Chuck does something that to this day I'm jealous of, I can't do it.

  • He picks up a spoon, picks it up,

  • scoops out some Shredded Wheat and milk,

  • holds the spoon level as he translates it, moving all these joints simultaneously, to his mouth,

  • and he doesn't drop any milk.

  • (Laughter)

  • I cannot do that.

  • (Laughter)

  • His wife was standing behind me.

  • She's standing behind me at the time and she says, "Dean,

  • Chuck hasn't fed himself in 19 years.

  • So, you've got a choice:

  • We keep the arm, or you keep Chuck."

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • So, can we see that?

  • This is Chuck showing simultaneous control of all the joints.

  • He's punching our controls guy.

  • The guy behind him is our engineer/surgeon,

  • which is a convenient guy to have around.

  • There's Randy, these guys are passing a rubber little puck between them.

  • And just as in the spirit of FIRST, gracious professionalism, they are quite proud of this,

  • so they decide to share a drink.

  • This is a non-trivial thing to do, by the way.

  • Imagine doing that with a wooden stick and a hook on the end of it, doing either of those.

  • Now Chuck is doing something quite extraordinary,

  • at least for my limited physical skill.

  • And now he's going to do what DARPA asked me for.

  • He's going to pick up a grape -- he didn't drop it, he didn't break it -- and he's going to eat it.

  • So, that's where we were at the end of about 15 months.

  • (Applause)

  • But, as I've learned from Richard,

  • the technology, the processors, the sensors, the motors, is not the story.

  • I hadn't dealt with this kind of problem or frankly,

  • this whole segment of the medical world.

  • I'll give you some astounding things that have happened as we started this.

  • After we were pretty much convinced we had a good design,

  • and we'd have to make all the standard engineering trade-offs you always make --

  • you can always get three out of four

  • of anything you want; the weight, the size, the cost, the functionality --

  • I put a bunch of guys in my plane and I said,

  • "We're flying down to Walter Reed, and we're going talk to these kids,

  • because frankly it doesn't matter whether we like this arm.

  • It doesn't matter whether the Department of Defense likes this arm.

  • "When I told them that they weren't entirely enthusiastic, but

  • I told them, "It really doesn't matter what their opinion is.

  • There is only one opinion that matters, the kids that are either going to use it or not."

  • I told a bunch of my engineers, "Look we're going to walk into Walter Reed,

  • and you're going to see people, lots of them, missing major body parts.

  • They're probably going to be angry, depressed, frustrated.

  • We're probably going to have to give them support, encouragement.

  • But we've got to extract from them enough information to make sure we're doing the right thing."

  • We walked into Walter Reed and I could not have been more wrong.

  • We did see a bunch of people, a lot of them missing a lot of body parts,

  • and parts they had left were burned; half a face gone, an ear burned off.

  • They were sitting at a table.

  • They were brought together for us.

  • And we started asking them all questions.

  • "Look," I'd say to them, "We're not quite as good as nature yet.

  • I could give you fine motor control, or I could let you curl 40 pounds;

  • I probably can't do both.

  • I can give you fast control with low reduction ratios in these gears,

  • or I can give you power; I can't give you both.

  • And we were trying to get them to all help us know what to give them.

  • Not only were they enthusiastic, they kept thinking

  • they're there to help us.

  • "Well, would it help if I ..."

  • "Guys, and woman, you've given enough.

  • We're here to help you. We need data. We need to know what you need."

  • After a half an hour, maybe, there was one guy at the far end of the table who wasn't saying much.

  • You could see he was missing an arm.

  • He was leaning on his other arm.

  • I called down to the end,

  • "Hey, you haven't said much.

  • If we needed this or this, what would you want?"

  • And he said, "You know, I'm the lucky guy at this table.

  • I lost my right arm, but I'm a lefty."

  • (Laughter)

  • So, he wouldn't say much.

  • He had a great spirit, like all the rest of them had great spirits.

  • And he made a few comments.

  • And then the meeting ended.

  • We said goodbye to all these guys.

  • And that guy pushed himself back from the table ... he has no legs.

  • So, we left.

  • And I was thinking,

  • "We didn't give them support and encouragement;

  • they gave it to us.

  • They're not finished giving yet."

  • It was astounding.

  • So, we went back.

  • And I started working harder, faster.

  • Then we went out to Brooke Army Medical Center.

  • And we saw lots of these kids,

  • lots of them. And it was astounding

  • how positive they are.

  • So, we went back,

  • and we've been working harder yet.

  • We're in clinical trials, we've got five of them on people.

  • We're screaming along.

  • And I get a call and we go back to Washington.

  • We go back to Walter Reed,

  • and a kid, literally,

  • 20 some-odd days before that was blown up.

  • And they shipped him to Germany

  • and 24 hours later they shipped him from Germany to Walter Reed.

  • And he was there,

  • and they said we needed to come.

  • And I went down and they rolled him into a room.

  • He's got no legs.

  • He's got no arms.

  • He's got a small residual limb on one side.

  • Half of his face is gone,

  • but they said his vision is coming back.

  • He had one good eye.

  • His name is Brandon Marrocco.

  • And he said,

  • "I need your arms, but I need two of them."

  • "You'll get them."

  • This kid was from Staten Island.

  • And he said,

  • "I had a truck, before I went over there, and it had a stick.

  • You think I'll be able to drive it?"

  • "Sure."