FDA Approves Segway Inventor’s Mind-Controlled Robotic Arm

The era of real cyborgs has begun. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave its first approval for the sale and marketing of a prosthetic arm that translates signals from a person’s muscles on Friday.

Informally known as the “Luke” arm (a reference to Luke Skywalker’s robotic arm in Star Wars), the Deka Arm, which is controlled by electrical signals from electromyogram (EMG) electrodes connected to the wearer’s muscles, can now move from research experiment to full-fledged commercial product. That’s right, bionic limbs are about to go mainstream

The Deka Arm System may allow some people to perform more complex tasks than they can with current prostheses in a way that more closely resembles the natural motion of the arm,” said Christy Foreman, the director of the Office of Device Evaluation at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health in a statement.

In a demonstration video (see above) released on Friday, Fred Downs, one of the recipients of the Deka Arm, is shown using the prosthetic hand to delicately pick up and move a carton of eggs. Like the device’s nickname, the demonstration is indeed reminiscent of the dexterity exhibited by Luke Skywalker’s robotic hand, a technology that was pure science fiction just a few decades ago, when the movie was first released.

The Deka Arm’s electrodes, which are attached to the muscles of the wearer, transmit signals to a processor in the prosthesis, which then interprets those signals and turns them into up to 10 distinct movements.

In yet another video (see above), Downs is shown using the Deka Arm to open up a piece of mail, a seemingly simple demonstration that is nevertheless indicative of the device’s precision.

And while the project was sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Army Research Office, Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway, and his team at Deka Research were instrumental in its development, hence the name.

The commercial roll out of the advanced prosthetic will be good news for everyone from injured military veterans to victims of accidents. However, the Deka Arm does not work for those with limb loss at the elbow or wrist joint.


Author: Adario Strange
Source: Mashable