Luke Arm Robotic Prosthesis

The Luke arm is a prosthesis named after the device worn by Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. Created by Dean Kamen with financing from DARPA, this device could be in use by returning veterans by next year.


(Dean Kamen and the Luke arm)

Deka Research and Development Corp., Kamen’s New Hampshire–based medical products company, received an $18.1 million grant to create an advanced prosthesis that could be strapped on and used immediately.

The Luke Arm prosthetic is agile because of the fine motor control imparted by the enormous amount of circuitry inside the arm, which enables 18 degrees of freedom. The engineers fought for space inside the arm and created workarounds when they couldn’t have the space they needed, such as using rigid-to-flex circuit boards folded into origami-like shapes inside the tiny spaces, which are connected by a dense thicket of wiring...

The Luke arm also had to be modular, usable by anyone with any level of amputation. The arm works as though it had a very complicated set of vacuum cleaner attachments; the hand contains separate electronics, as does the forearm. The elbow is powered, and the electronics that power it are contained in the upper arm. The shoulder is also powered and can accomplish the never-before-seen feat of reaching up as if to pick an apple off a tree.

The Luke arm is controlled by controllers in the shoes of the user. When you push down with your left big toe, the arm moves out; when the right big toe pushes down, the arm moves back in.

Feedback is provided with a tactor, a small vibrating motor placed against the user's skin. The rate of vibration changes with the grip strength exerted.

Expert users can pick up paper cups and even peel bananas with the Luke arm.

SF readers recall the bionic arm from Cyborg, the 1972 novel from which The Six Million Dollar Man was taken.

...The artificial muscles.. which in this case are silastic and vitallium pulleys, then contract, twist, and tighten. You can even sense with your fingertips...

Other examples of this kind of technology include the Bionic Arm, which uses neuro-engineering, and the i-Limb System Robot Arm, which is stronger than yours.

Via Dean Kamen's "Luke Arm" Prosthesis Readies for Clinical Trials.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/3/2008)

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