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Berlin to go, english edition, 02/2018

TALK OF THE TOWN HUMANS

TALK OF THE TOWN HUMANS & TECHNOLOGY Top athletes are expected to deliver an invariable level of peak performance. For athletes with disabilities, the challenges are even greater. In our interview with Ottobock Manager Ralf Stuch, he explains how innovative medical technologies enable mobility. Interview: Ines Hein THE FUTURE OF SPORTS HAS MANY DIFFERENT COMPONENTS In addition to innovative new sports and exercise trends, increasing focus is being placed on top disabled athletes seeking to achieve maximum performance in their field. The theme of digitization plays a decisive role in this realm, and ultimately the following questions arise: What is medical technology capable of achieving, and are there any limits to what it should be allowed to accomplish? At its Science Center Berlin on Potsdamer Platz, the med-tech company Ottobock shows quite impressively what makes people move. One of the areas this world market leader in technical orthopedics focuses on is electronically intelligent prostheses. Berlin to go spoke to Ralf Stuch, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer (CSMO) at Ottobock and the man responsible for the themes of Paralympics and sport prostheses, about the present and future of technical orthopedic solutions for athletes. Photos:© ottobock.com OTTOBOCK HAS SUPPORTED THE PARALYM- PICS MOVEMENT FOR THE PAST 30 YEARS. HOW WOULD YOU RATE THE LAST WINTER PARALYM- PICS, WHICH WAS THE LARGEST EVER? Ralf Stuch: We worked with a total of 287 athletes from 39 countries at the last games. Our 23 technicians put in 2,152 hours and provided athletes with support 410 times, for example with repairs of wheelchairs, monoskis and hockey frames. This was an enormous accomplishment, seeing as we expected to be responsible for around 260 repairs in the run-up to the games. So we had a lot of work to do. We were delighted to be able to help so many athletes. Our focus at the Paralympics has been the same from the very beginning: We want to use our technical support to provide athletes with the opportunity to participate as effectively as possible in the competitions they have been preparing for years. No one should be prevented from starting their race due to a technical defect. YOUR COMPANY WORKS TOGETHER WITH LEA- DING SCIENTISTS. THE COMPANY BIONX IS ALSO A SUBSIDIARY OF OTTOBOCK. WHAT INNOVATIONS ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON? It’s no secret that our acquisition of BionX and our work with Professor Hugh Herr from the Center for Extreme Bionics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is aimed at transferring the intuitive control systems that already work well in arm prosthetics to leg prosthetics. At the moment, various sensors and microprocessors integrated into the prosthesis determine the precise energy, resistance and ankle joint flexion required for every step, which are then adjusted to fit each respective situation. In the future, it will be the nerves that provide the decisive impulses necessary to control the active component. YOU RECENTLY ATTENDED THE OTWORLD, YOUR INDUSTRY’S LEADING WORLD CONG- RESS, WHERE YOU PRESENTED NEW PRODUCTS FOR DISABLED ATHLETES AND MUCH MORE. WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST HIGHLIGHTS? We attended the OTWorld in Leipzig where we introduced the new generation of the C-Brace®, a microprocessor-controlled orthotic system used in cases of paralysis in the lower extremities. Our orthopedic technicians are able to adapt the C-Brace® to each patient using a specially developed app on a tablet. After that, each user can operate it on a LED display directly at the joint via a smartphone app. Another highlight was the presentation of our Myo Plus hand prosthesis. This prosthesis is equipped with so-called pattern recognition, which recognizes movement via different muscle activities, while also enabling various movements and control of the hand. INNOVATION THRIVES ON A MULTIPLICITY OF INFLUENCES. WHAT KINDS OF INSIGHTS DID YOU GAIN FROM YOUR ATTENDANCE AT THE SXSW? SXSW is an annual tech and cultural festival in Austin, Texas, and what was most fascinating there was the convergence of approaches. For example, Silicon Valley tech companies like Tesla are thinking just as much about advanced human-machine interfaces (HMI) as we are. In Austin, the global tech community even stated that mechatronic hand prostheses, knee joint systems and feet and ankle Ralf Stuch, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer (CSMO) at Ottobock joints were the ideal components for future generations of cyborgs. While that’s clearly still a long way off, Ottobock head Hans Georg Näder and Tesla founder Elon Musk agreed that the iPhone – “as “No matter how far we come, we can never lose respect for nature.” an extended brain with high computing power” – was a first step is that direction. One aspect that remains crucial, however, is that no matter how far we come, we can never lose respect for nature. IN OTHER WORDS, THERE ARE TECHNOLOGICAL BUT ALSO ETHICAL LIMITS? We follow a very clear maxim that states that our most important standard of measurement 18 19

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