Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Revolution Will Be Prosthetized (IEEE Spectrum)

This is seriously cool! Imagine having a prosthetic arm and still being able to feel sensations through it like heat or textures. It's one of those cases where the truth is stranger than the fiction, and the truth absolutely blows my mind.

I saw this article in the IEEE Spectrum hard-copy and thought I was going to have to re-write it here word for word until a quick google search found the exact same article online.

"The Revolution Will Be Prosthetized: DARPA's prosthetic arm gives amputees new hope"

A few teaser excerpts:
"...research is part of a nationwide effort to create a neurally controlled prosthetic arm. That arm has been the focus of much media attention, but that focus obscures the truly groundbreaking research typical of the Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 (RP2009) program.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is pouring at least US $71.2 million into the program in the hope that it will let amputees do what most people take for granted: make gestures, test the water in a teacup, turn a key, even peel the shell off an egg. Words like bionic and thought-controlled have been thrown at the project, but they don’t do justice to the sheer ordinariness of its purpose. DARPA isn’t looking for a superstrong “Six Million Dollar Man” arm; it just wants an arm that moves exactly like a real one does."

Canadian connection:
"In October, a Canadian hospital announced that it had used part of the control mechanism of the DARPA arm to steer regular, nonrevolutionized prosthetic arms in two patients. Simply borrowing that one technology has made huge improvements in commercially available prosthetic devices."

Read the whole article here:
"DARPA’s device is the world’s first truly neurally controlled prosthetic arm."


  1. It's pretty incredible what they are doing now... but It really begs the question; "Why not a superstrong $6million man arm?" How cool would that be?

  2. How would you make it superstrong by itself? Wouldn't you need a superstrong rest of the body to really make the arm's super strenth salient?

  3. Anyway, I think the point of the article is that there's been a ton of hype as far back as the 1960s about "neurally controlled arms," but DARPA's actually trying to live up to it. That said, there are still a lot of hurdles to get past before it becomes a reality on the ground.

  4. Great post, great blog. The DARPA/Luke arm, or any prosthetic limb having sensation in it is a truly amazing accomplishment and something I have been posting about for some time. An interesting tie-in to this is the latest robots being controlled by rat brain cells. Here's a link