Human Factors Blog Entry #2 – Surpassing Requirements Specification

Surpassing Requirements Specification

This week in class, we covered the fundamentals of front-end analysis in design. It is the step before we start brainstorming because we need to identify the requirements and the tasks the design must accomplish or allow the user to accomplish. We design to meet those requirements, but what happens when we surpass them?

Raiden, cyborg super-soldier from Metal Gear video game series

I wanted to take this opportunity to explore the field of prosthetics because our class will be prototyping a prosthetic leg later this semester. Once designed to replace and mimic the functions of missing body parts, prosthetics have now evolved into what some view as “enhancements”.

We have already surpassed the point where the technology allows us to build prosthetics that replace what has been lost. Now we have prosthetics that are specialized for certain tasks (ie. running, climbing), sometimes even better than the original biological capability. In this article from the Wired magazine, they explore the potential future of prosthetics and how it can impact competitive sports.

Aside from this article, I also watched TED Talks by Aimee Mullins and another one by Hugh Herr. I was fascinated with the rapid advancements in bionic prosthetics in the last decade.

“It is no longer a conversation about overcoming deficiencies. It’s a conversation about augmentation; it’s a conversation about potential.”

 — Aimee Mullins, Athelete


“I quickly realized that the artificial part of my body is malleable, able to take on any form, any function, a blank slate from which to create structures that could extend beyond biological capability.”

 — Hugh Herr, Director of the Biomechatronics Group at the MIT’s Media Lab


Case Study – Oscar Pistorius

“Prosthetics beening seen as an advantage is such a weird concept to think about.”

 —Oscar Pistorius, Athelete

Oscar Pistorius, also known as “Blade Runner, the fasted man on no legs”,  is a double amputee runner; he uses Flex-Foot Cheetah prosthetic legs in races. In 2007, the Olympic board ruled that he could not compete because the Flex-Foot Cheetah created a spring-like effect and gave him an unfair advantage and banned him from competing against able-bodied rivals. In 2008, his ban was overturned, although he did not meet the Olympic qualifying time for Beijing and ran in the Paralympics instead.

At the 2011 World Championships in Athletics, Pistorius became the first amputee to win an able-bodied world track medal. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, Pistorius became the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics. At the 2012 Summer Paralympics, Pistorius set 3 world records. In his career and an Paralympic athlete, he has won a total of 6 gold, 1 silver, and 1 bronze medals.


To see how far prosthetics have come, here is a video that covers the history of prosthetics:


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