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article imageMind-controlled robotic prosthetic arm gets FDA approval

By James Walker     May 13, 2014 in Science
A team led by the US Defence Department's advanced research agency has been granted permission by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to begin producing a robotic prosthetic limb.
Controlled by the mind and invented by Dean Kamen, best known as the creator of the Segway, the device is roughly the same size as a fully-grown adult human arm and around the same weight. The unit is called the DEKA Arm and although similar systems are being developed by teams worldwide this is the first to get US FDA approval for public use.
DARPA calls the project "the first prosthetic arm controlled by electric signals that can accomplish multiple, robotically-powered movements at once." DARPA has invested $40 million into the arm so far but by the time they complete the "Revolutionizing Prosthetics" program that the arm is part of $100 million will have been spent.
The product is controlled by special electrodes that are placed on the remaining part of the natural human arm. These are electromyogram electrodes and act as sensors that detect muscle movements and send them to a small computer in the robotic arm to tell what kind of position the arm needs to position itself into. Feedback is returned to the user through vibration that emanates from the "hand" of the device according to how much pressure the user is applying.
The DARKA DEKA robotic prosthetic arm
The DARKA DEKA robotic prosthetic arm
In testing, the arm has successfully been used to perform operations where intricate precision is required and fragile, delicate options including eggs have also been picked up and placed back down without any ill-consequences.
The DARPA DEKA Arm could well be the future for users of prosthetic arms today due to its increased flexibility and control offered over a standard, manual prosthetic arm. Now that the product has FDA approval DARPA just needs to find a manufacturer to build the product before consumers will be able to start using it and reaping the benefits that it offers.
More about Mind, Robotic, Prosthetic, Arm, Approval
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