Segway Inventor Debuts A Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm
The DEKA Arm an be can perform complex actions that almost recreate the actual functionality of a human limb.
Dean Kamen, the inventor who brought us the Segway, has created a robotic arm that could be controlled by the user’s mind and can perform complex actions and multiple movements simultaneously.
The Food and Drug Administration has just approved the DEKA arm system, a prosthetic limb that is being described as one of the most realistic and human-like prosthetics to date since it brings back almost all functionality of the actual human arm.
The DEKA arm, which the creators are affectionately calling “Luke” after Star Wars character Luke Skywalker who received a robotic arm in one of the Star Wars movies, is about the same shape and weight of a natural adult arm and is capable of performing up to 10 movements.
Electromyogram (EMG) electrodes detect the electrical activity caused by the contracting muscles near the area where the prosthetic is attached. The electrical signals are transmitted by the electrodes to a computer processor in the robotic arm to initiate a specific movement or series of movements.
Aside from the EMG electrodes, the DEKA arm is also fitted with various mechanisms such as switches, and movement and force sensors that work together to make the prosthesis move.
The FDA approved the device after it reviewed data about the project, including the results of a Department of Veterans Affairs study that equipped 36 participants with the DEKA arm to see how they do with the arm when it comes to regular household tasks. The results of the study showed that 90% of the participants were able to do tasks that they could not do with their current prosthetics. These tasks included day-to-day things like preparing food and feeding themselves, using keys and locks, using zippers, and brushing their hair. The robotic arm system can help users handle objects ranging from a grape to a powertool.
The prosthetic arm can be configured for people with limb loss occurring at the shoulder joint, mid-upper or mid-lower arm, but not for those who have lost a limb at the elbow or wrist joint.
The DEKA arm is still being developed further. The project is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the U.S. Army Research Office.