What is Bionics?
Bionics is a branch of technology that blends mechatronics, which is the combination of mechanical, electronic, and software components, with the study of biology in nature and its patterns. Unfortunately, unlike starfish or regular lizards, we lack the special ability to regenerate that would allow us to grow back our arms and legs, returning them to their previous shape. Stem cell research may provide the solution, but no one can say for sure. Until then, artificial implants will be required, which is where bionics comes into play. Let’s examine all the potential methods for rebuilding or restoring a damaged human body. One of the most crucial subjects in the realm of bionics is bionic implants. These implants aim to raise the quality of life for those with damaged arms, legs, eyes, or even ears.
History of Bionics
The origins of bionics can be traced back to a mythological era when troops are said to have replaced their amputated limbs with iron ore-made prosthetics before engaging in combat. The current situation, however, is influenced by several fields including robotics, bioengineering, brain-computer interface, and MEMS with nanotechnology using meticulous precision to create human organs and ensure that they work in tandem with human tissues. In the bionics industry, brain gates are also used. Brain Gate is a technology that is developed to establish a connection between computers and the human brain; it is a system of brain implants that aid individuals who have lost control of their limbs or their functions as a result of diseases or accidents. A previous couple of decades were amazing years for technological advancements in the electronics and medical industries in the form of advanced computer systems, complex microchips, and miniature electronic components all integrated into the human body to serve a purpose.
Types of Bionics
The major types of bionics include vision bionics, auditory bionics, orthopedic bionics, and bionic heart. These types of bionics differ from each other by the factors of the location of the implant, machine, methods, etc.
- Vision Bionics
The bionic eye, also known as a visual neuroprosthesis or vision bionics, is a bioelectronic implant that provides people who are partially or completely blind with functional vision. Researchers and device makers working on bionic eyes faced two significant obstacles: the difficulty of simulating retinal function and the market preference for small in-eye implants. Despite all the challenges, there are several device prototypes and some commercially available solutions in the vision bionics market category.
Second Sight Medical Products, based in Sylmar, California, is one of the most recognizable businesses in this industry. The Argus II prosthesis from Second Sight consists of an implanted microelectronic array in the retina, a worn camera, and an image processing device. A camera included within the eyewear takes pictures and sends them to a portable processing device, which wirelessly communicates the images to the implanted array. These signals are then transformed into electrical impulses by the array, which then stimulates the retinal cells that are connected to the optic nerve. Thus, Argus II serves as the essential conduit between the thing and the optic nerve, obviating the need for functioning photoreceptors (as in the case of retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative ocular disease).
- Auditory Bionics
The three primary categories of neuroprosthetic devices for persons with substantial hearing loss are cochlear implants, auditory brainstem implants, and auditory midbrain implants. With a microelectronic array implanted either in the cochlea or the brain stem, auditory bionics build an artificial connection between the source of sound and the brain. Compared to vision bionics, auditory bionics is a better-developed technology with a bigger innovation ecosystem, more commercial products, and more widespread acceptance.
- Orthopedic Bionics
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 1 billion people or over 15% of the world’s population, live with a physical handicap and that 190 million adults experience a substantial functional challenge. Orthopedic bionics are made to help physically disabled people regain their motor (not necessarily sensory) capabilities. Prosthetic limbs, which were commonplace for more than 100 years, are being replaced with bionic limbs. Prosthetic limbs did not offer the required functional restoration that bionic devices currently do, despite noteworthy improvements that led to lighter devices and superior designs.
The distinction of developing the first entirely microprocessor-controlled lower limb prosthesis system belongs to Ottobock (Duderstadt, Germany). The industry leader in bionic lower limbs is currently attempting to create lighter bionic limbs that don’t require external energy sources. The fact that it has been the official partner of the Paralympic Games for more than 20 years is a testimonial to its leadership in this industry.
- Bionic Heart (Total Artificial Heart)
When the heart isn’t functioning properly, a mechanical pump called a Total Artificial Heart (TAH) is used to replace it. To replace diseased or damaged heart ventricles, a heart surgeon inserts a prosthetic heart into the patient’s chest.
The heart’s lowest chambers are known as the ventricles. There are left and right ventricles in the human body. The left and right ventricles are both replaced when one gets a whole artificial heart. The TAH fills the void left by the ventricles.
Technology Behind Bionics
The rise of mind-controlled bionic devices is the development of bionics technology. These can be artificial limbs, arms, and ears that can be integrated with the nervous system and other body tissues. They are extremely sophisticated and can react to signals from the central nervous system, which allows them to more accurately mimic normal movement and functionality while also instantaneously activating the desired movement with reduced “lag time.” Various processes and technologies are now undergoing research and development such as brain wave scanners, bionic ears, advanced prosthetics, and bionic eyes. Through a procedure known as targeted muscle reinnervation, a mechanical bionic part can be moved using the same brain signals that formerly controlled flesh and blood and the nerves that survived an amputation.
Advancement in Bionics
Robotic exoskeletons represent a relatively recent sector of the bionics market. These electromechanical devices, as the name suggests (and as made popular by the “Iron Man” movies and comic books), are worn by patients to gain the advantages of “powered muscles.” Patients who have little to no muscle control can walk, lift objects, and otherwise move around thanks to these powered suits. Exoskeletons are exciting new technologies that are anticipated to have a significant impact on the rehabilitation of stroke and spinal injury patients as well as people with degenerative neuromuscular illnesses like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The popularity of robotic exoskeletons, which have also been used in industrial settings due to their capacity to improve physical capabilities, suggests that a human-machine hybrid is on the horizon. Many companies, such as Ekso Skeleton, Comau, and ReWalk Robotics are working in this area. The Exoskeleton market share is estimated to be USD 499 million in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 3340 million by 2026 at a CAGR of 42.6%.
The patent data in this article displays details about bionics, including the worldwide trend in patent filings and the leading assignees.
The total number of applications submitted worldwide for each year are mentioned. It is amazing to know that the trend of patent applications increased to more than 2000 in the year 2018–2019. However, considering that this field’s research and development is still underway, it is anticipated to grow in the next years.
The leading assignees in the bionics field are displayed. With a total of 475 patents, Advanced Bionics, hold most of the market share. Advanced Bionics is currently working on developing the most advanced cochlear implant systems, researching to improve the hearing experience through artificial intelligence and signal processing algorithms, and developing app-based hearing aid-worn devices. Jilin University, Boston Scientific Neuromodulation, Beijing University of Technology, Zhejiang University, etc. are some of the other leading businesses/assignees that make contributions to this field of study. The top companies out of many others are focusing on artificial intelligence in bionics to create adaptive bionic products. Technology has advanced as a result of these developments in order to improve the user experience for current bionic services. Along with the major US businesses, other leading firms including Sonova, Demant A/S, Cochlear Ltd, and Ekso Bionics are also developing similar technology.
In light of emerging and popular technologies, bionics has a very promising future. This also applies to bionics that uses artificial intelligence. As a result, this will enable more efficiency and improved productivity. Other essential pieces of bionics include a bionic pancreas, an exoskeleton, etc.
In addition, it is predicted that the global market for bionics would grow at an 8% CAGR from 2022 to 2032, from $683.9 million to $1.5 billion USD. The rise in trauma cases and developments in medical technology are credited with the market’s expansion. The market for medical bionic implants and exoskeletons is anticipated to grow significantly as a result of these crucial aspects.