Prosthetics are a special type of implant that replaces an appendage or limb. They are typically used when limbs are lost via accident or medically-necessitated amputation, but some choose to have limbs replaced with prosthetics for body-augmentation or other reasons. The simplest prosthetics are little more than hooks or pegs that replicate only the crudest functionality of the appendage, while the most complicated (and expensive) can surpass ordinary human abilities.
Prosthetics have been used throughout human history to aid those who have lost a limb through injury. The earliest prosthetics were simple devices, typically carved from wood or bone, and were vastly inferior to the limb they replaced. Peg legs can allow a person to walk, but they do a poor job at motor control and balance. Hooks can crudely grasp some objects, but cannot manipulate them to any intricate degree.
For thousands of years, prosthetics remained troublesome. Even as technological advances made them more complicated and more capable of replicating basic human functionality, prosthetics did not truly become equivalent to natural limbs until fairly recently. Currently, top-of-the-line prosthetics not only resemble natural limbs without close inspection, but they also are capable of sensory-feedback that simulates the sense of touch, fine motor control, and augmented strength. The best prosthetics are even capable of surpassing human limits, such as enhancing strength, fine control, and agility.
Prosthetics can be grouped into three rough categories based on sophistication and the purpose behind the device. These are Basic Replacements, Cybernetic Limbs, and Augmentative Prosthetics.
These devices are primarily found among the poor and less advanced areas of New Eden. These devices typically are obviously prosthetics, such as replacement legs shaped like curved metal blades or hands that are immobile claws. These devices typically replicate a fair amount of daily function of a lost limb, allowing the user to live comfortably without much aid. However, they almost always have some disadvantages over normal human limbs.
These disadvantages are usually an inability to make any delicate or precise movements with the limb (such as writing or painting), a lack of touch and other sensation, and inelegant interface with flesh leading to aches and pains. Other issues may also arise, such as replacement legs leaving a runner with difficulty making sharp turns.
However, they are advantageous in that they are readily available, easy to maintain, and inexpensive. This makes them among the most common prosthetics in New Eden, particularly among the outer colonies where danger is frequent, medical treatment is less available, and money is sparse.
Cybernetic limbs seek to replicate as much functionality of the lost limb as possible. They utilize robotics and neural interfaces to allow a user to control the limb much as they would one made of flesh and bone. While such prosthetics take some learning to operate naturally, over time users tend to have no more trouble using their replacements that a person with their natural limbs.
They run the gamut from simple and relatively cheap to complicated and expensive. The simplest replacements typically have less motor control and sensory feedback than human limbs, but still give these to some degree. A user might be able to throw a ball, but would have difficulty picking a flower without crushing it, for instance. More advanced models are capable of the same delicate movements as a normal human limb, but are more costly to manufacture and require more regular maintenance.
Most are made to resemble the lost appendage as much as possible, using fake skin colored to match the natural tone and appearance. However, they can be left bare if desired, or even made from a variety of colors and materials. In professions where damage to the covering might be frequent, such as mercenary work, the limbs can be left uncovered to prevent the need for constant repair. Notably, the Ardishapur Family has a tradition of replacing the right hand of all males with a silver prosthesis at birth, making no effort to disguise its cybernetic nature.
Augmentative prosthetics seek to push past the limitations of the human body with cybernetics. These devices are similar in many ways to standard cybernetic limbs, but take the idea a step further by possessing abilities beyond the human baseline. These augmented abilities can take a variety of forms, such as increased strength, better fine motor control, increased sensitivity, or even hidden weaponry.
The most common augmentative prosthetics simply increase the strength of the limb to superhuman levels, allowing a person to lift large weights or inflict serious wounds with a simple unarmed strike. They are popular among mercenaries and criminals for this reason, though other individuals might make use of these abilities as well.
Artists such as painters and sculptors have taken advantage of augmentations with improved control to create intricate works that are nearly impossible to create by hand otherwise. Some have pointed out the hypocrisy of this, as it still replaces human skill with technological assistance, but the limbs are still controlled directly by the brain and not through automation.
Even more bizarre prosthetics are possible, such as the replacement of a hand with a weapon, or legs that can elongate by a meter or more, or feet with built-in wheels. There even exists a subcommunity of the Gallente body-modding scene which utilizes augmentations for sexual reasons.
Because of the dangerous nature of augmentative prosthetics, they are heavily regulated by CONCORD and the empires. Typically anyone possessing one must register them with law enforcement, particularly if they can be used as a weapon. In areas outside civilized space, however, they can be come by readily as long as those interested have the money to spend.
Naturally, such augmentations are far more expensive than even standard cybernetic limbs and must also be maintained constantly. The additional capabilities of the augmentations can also take several years to become comfortable. Some, particularly those with extra sensitivity, have been shown to cause minor nerve damage and neural degradation, though these can be treated with drugs.