The North-American Food and Drug Administration has issued an approval for commerce for the DEKA Arm System, a highly advanced robotic arm prosthesis which can translate muscle signals from an amputee’s upper limb muscles into complex movements.
The “Luke arm”, as it was nicknamed by its creators as an analogy to Luke Skywalker’s bionic limb which replaced a hand lost in battle, is the brainchild of famous inventor Dean Kamen. Research and development for the DEKA Arm System has taken nearly eight years and was funded by DARPA as part of their Revolutionizing Prosthetics program. From the 100 Million US Dollar program budget approximately 40% went to DEKA Research and Development Corp., while the remaining went to a research team at Johns Hopkins University.
The DEKA prosthetic arm is closely matched in terms of size and weight to a natural limb and is controlled through an array of inputs. Main signals are derived from electromyogram (EMG) electrodes, designed to read electrical muscle activity in various points in the contact area between the robotic arm and the amputee’s limb, and for added movement complexity switches are also attached to the amputee’s feet which transmit commands wirelessly to the arm, allowing for simultaneous control of multiple joints. Signal processing and control is accomplished entirely by a computer found inside the prosthetic arm.
The DEKA Arm System has been approved as fit for use by persons 18 and older, and can be configured for replacing the loss of limbs at shoulder level and middle upper or lower arm. A configuration for people who lost their limbs at elbow or wrist joint level is not available. There is no word on the pricing as a manufacturer for mass-production is yet to be found by DEKA.
Videos released by DARPA with the DEKA Arm System used to perform delicate tasks can be seen below:
Additional information about the DEKA prosthetic arm and the DARPA project: