The bionic arm
The “Luke Arm,” whose official name is DEKA Arm System, is one of the most advanced robotic prostheses ever built. According to the FDA, this is the first prosthetic arm approved by the agency that “translates signals from a person’s muscles to perform complex tasks.”
The DEKA Arm was created by famed inventor Dean Kamen and his team at DEKA Research and Development Corp., in Manchester, N.H., as part of DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program.
It is an advanced prosthetic limb that uses many different kinds of stimuli to activate it, from muscle contractions to firing neurons. It performs multiple, simultaneous powered movements controlled by electrical signals from electromyogram (EMG) electrods.
The technology used here is called peripheral nerve stimulation, and engineers have been exploring its use in upper limb prostheses for years.
Electrodes are attached to the nerves in the arm above the amputation site, and also to the prosthetic. The user then thinks about moving the hand and arm. It takes a bit of training – everyone’s neural activity is different – but gradually, the software that runs the arm learns the user’s neural signals for controlling the prosthesis, and basic dexterity is restored.
The LUKE Arm, developed by Mobius Bionics, has 100 microelectrodes that are connected to the nerves in the upper arm, and also to an external computer.
- The LUKE (Life Under Kinetic Evolution) Arm uses specially developed state-of-the-art technology to quickly integrate with the user’s own body.
- The arm executes both fine and strength-based movements with an effectiveness and agility unseen of before.
- It features the unparalleled function and comfort of the equally groundbreaking High-Fidelity Interface by Randy Alley, CEO of biodesigns.
- It represents the result of an unprecedented 10 years’ long collaborative effort, including a key role by Next Step in the interface and fitting phase.
The Luke Arm is the first prosthesis that allows a person to make multiple movements, such as rotating the wrist and opening the hand, at once. “Ten minutes after putting it on, people are able to pick things up,” says Stewart Coulter, the Luke Arm project manager. “Our office is littered with things that people have built with it.” In