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Star Wars-style robotic arm approved for mass production

Published time: May 10, 2014 08:55
Edited time: May 12, 2014 22:00
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A “near-natural” prosthetic arm, that took eight years to develop and test, has been approved for mass production by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The DEKA Arm System has been affectionately dubbed “The Luke,” after Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker who received a robotic replacement for the hand he lost in a fight with Darth Vader in the 1980 film “The Empire Strikes Back.”

One of the developers, Dean Camen, the inventor of the Segway, says that the new type of a prosthetic limb will dramatically improve the lives of amputees. Tests have shown that subjects fitted with the arm were able to pick up grapes and raisins, use keys and locks, brush hair, open envelopes, pick up an egg without breaking it, eat cereal and even use chopsticks.

According to the recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) release, it “reviewed clinical information relating to the device, including a 4-site Department of Veterans Affairs study in which 36 DEKA Arm System study participants provided data on how the arm performed in common household and self-care tasks."

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The investigation revealed that approximately 90 percent of participants could perform activities with the robotic arm that they were previously unable to undertake, such as “using keys and locks, preparing food, feeding oneself, using zippers, and brushing and combing hair.”

The new artificial arm’s entirely new level of freedom, control and the near natural feel are a far cry from the plastic prosthesis and metal hooks which are currently in use in much of the world, and that have made little functional progress in the last 100 years since the use of wooden limbs, before technological advancement.

“The Luke” can perform multiple, simultaneous powered movements controlled by electrical signals from electromyogram (EMG) electrodes. They convert electrical signals into up to 10 powered movements, detecting electrical activity caused by the contraction of muscles close to where the prosthesis is attached and send signals to a computer processor in the prosthesis that translates them to a specific movement. The DEKA Arm System can be fitted for people with limb loss at the shoulder joint and mid-upper or lower arm, but it can’t be configured at the elbow or wrist joint.

“This innovative prosthesis provides a new option for people with certain kinds of arm amputations and may allow some to perform more complex tasks than they can with current prostheses in a way that more closely resembles the natural motion of the arm,” said Christy Foreman, director of the Office of Device Evaluation at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

The retail price for the first-of-its-kind, life-altering limb replacement is yet to be set. The search for a suitable manufacturing partner is currently under way.

Comments (61)


DoAskDoTell 13.05.2014 09:29

filthy rich people are beginning to be paranoid of their own help/servants/driver s (see Google cars)? LOL

the public funded all this so why not? The old/sick bottomless useless eaters with their golf carts, ventilators and cyborg servants LOVE new free toys 24/7 & 365 days of xmas

no need to educate the younger potheads if they can replace them with super-smart cyborgs that can do anything they command?


Davor Mihajlovic 13.05.2014 08:47

Dicio Est 12.05.2014 08:58

While Russia frantically battles to bring up US hating citizens US at least is doing the general world good. Russia is prancing around annexing territories fist-pumping each other like America used to do a little while back.

I guess Russia is at that stage of development. Ughh...we probably have to go through the same gig as US went through of Russia thinking they are the center of the world. :/

So Russia wohooo you so good, best, whoo Putin! Obama US bad bad! When will you get over this and focus on something productive?


An y point to this rant?


Goggles313 12.05.2014 15:51

[quote name='Dunbal' time='11.05.2014 23:17']So here's a question - who is going to buy all the stuff the robots make once we're all out of a job because of the robots? We can't all be robot repair-men...[/quote ]

You're right. We should stunt the growth of technology so a few people can keep long-outdated jobs.

View all comments (61)
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