It’s been in the works for some time, but now a fully interactive and responsive electronic arm could be helping amputees by the end of this year.
The prosthetic was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Dean Kamen, of Segway invention fame. In homage to the prosthetic arm Luke Skywalker received at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, they have named it LUKE.
The battery-powered system is capable of performing multiple movements simultaneously, all controlled through electromyographic electrodes that are connected to the user’s muscles. Alternatively, the user can control the movement through sensors in their foot. It also features a feedback function that allows users to understand how firmly they are grasping. As you can see in DARPAtv's demonstration video below, it allows amputees to experience incredible amounts of dexterity and subtle movement.
Other companies are working on similar prototypes to this one, but LUKE is the first model to be approved by the FDA. DEKA's Mobius Bionics, who now own the technology, are accepting names for people interested in owning a LUKE arm and are hopeful they’ll be commercially available by the end of 2016.
“Up to this point, design in prosthetic arms has been limited to incremental changes. We developed the LUKE arm to change the game for amputees – creating an innovative, integrated system that offers greater functionality and independence to our wounded warriors and other amputees,” explained Dean Kamen, President of DEKA, in a press release.
The price-tag of this piece of kit is not yet known. However, it is unlikely to come cheap, with some prosthetics experts estimating it could cost upwards of $100,000, Qmed reports.