&color1The DEKA Prosthetic Arm, also called the 'Luke' arm, has been given another three years of funding by the Veterans Administration. Take a look at this remarkable video clip of the DEKA Prosthetic Arm in action.
(DEKA 'Luke' Prosthetic Arm video)
I first wrote about the prototype for this device over a year ago (see Luke Arm Robotic Prosthesis; the technology has come a long way since then.
The device can be actuated by a foot-operated joystick, or by myoelectric switches that are controlled by the patient's own brain impulses. Residual nerve signals control the DEKA prosthetic limb.
"During the procedure, surgeons transfer the nerves that previously carried signals from the amputated limb to muscles in the chest and upper arm. The rerouted nerves then grow into the muscles which contract when the patient thinks about moving his lost limb. Those signals are read by the prosthesis and translated into movement."
The prosthetic limb can be used to perform a remarkable variety of tasks, as shown in the video.
Read this description of the basic idea from Martin Caidin's 1972 novel Cyborg:
"When you think to pick up an object, what happened before with your original arm is repeated. The electrical impulses generated by your brain command everything... The artificial muscles.. which in this case are silastic and vitallium pulleys, then contract, twist, and tighten. You can even sense with your fingertips...
(Read more about Caidin's bionic arm)
In a press release, Frederick Downs Jr., director of VA’s Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service who lost his left arm during combat in Vietnam, said he was “brought to tears” recently when the prosthetic arm allowed him to smoothly bring a water bottle to his mouth and drink. “Learning to use the controls is not difficult,” he said, due in part to a sensor in the artificial hand that sends a vibration signal that tells how strong the grip is. A stronger grip causes more vibration.