DEKA's New 'Luke' Prosthetic Arm Can Basically Read Your Mind, And It's Remarkable
Potentially huge news in medical science came Friday, with the announcement that the FDA has approved the DEKA Arm. This is a potentially groundbreaking new prosthetic arm produced by the same company, DEKA, which manufactures the Segway. Made to respond to the contractions of muscles near to where the arm is attached, it's being billed as virtually mind-reading, with a precision of movement unmatched in previous prosthesis options. And while it's not known when exactly the DEKA Arm will be available, the green light has been given — DEKA is now free to market it.
Nicknamed "Luke" throughout its development process, after Star Wars hero and robotic-hand recipient Luke Skywalker, the most exciting thing about the DEKA-Arm is undoubtedly its reported dexterity. It allows a user to perform any number of precise, intricate tasks — using zippers, cooking food, and manipulating locks and keys, for example.
A study of 36 DEKA Arm users through the Department of Veteran's Affairs showed off the unique and impressive utility of the device. A whopping 90 percent of the respondents reported that they were able to perform tasks with the DEKA Arm which would have been impossible using their older, lesser prostheses.
The freedom of motion afforded by the new arm is probably its biggest achievement — there are other types of high-end replacement arms that boast different and impressive features, to be clear. But while others have similarly operated based on nearby muscles' electrical activity — known as myoelectric protheses — the DEKA Arm allows for multiple movements to occur at the same time, allowing a naturalistic style of motion unique among consumer-grade options.
It shouldn't come as much surprise that the subjects of the study were veterans, either. According to DEKA, the funding for this project came from the Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA for short, and the reason is pretty obvious — military hospitals would love nothing more than a new era of high-quality prosthetic technologies. Data released in late 2012 shows that more than 1,500 U.S. soldiers have lost either an arm or a leg throughout the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.