We’ve said it before: DARPA is at it again.Leading the way with innovations straight from sci-fi movies, scientists laboring with the Pentagon’s super-secret defence research agency have conjured up a a prosthetic limb controlled only by the user’s thoughts:
“Researchers demonstrated direct neural control of an advanced prosthetic arm,” the agency announced.
It’s a huge development for people who have been paralysed, or lost limbs to amputations like the thousands of U.S. troops debilitated by roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Here’s what the science revealed:
“Microelectrode arrays were implanted in the motor cortex of the brains of two tetraplegic (quadriplegic) patients. With minimal prior use, the patients were able to control the arm in three-dimensional space and perform reach and grasp tasks.”
Fulfilling the defence research community’s sci-fi reputation, the limb is affectionately nick-named Luke after the young Skywalker hero in Star Wars. But it represents a very real-world impact:
Under its Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, DARPA says the idea is to develop upper-limb prosthetic technology so advanced that service-disabled veterans could have the chance to return to duty.
More importantly, the advancements would improve their quality of life and give severely injured veterans renewed hope.
And civilians too. Watch this video of the arm in action, controlled by the mind of a woman who had a stroke 15 years ago:
Researchers working with DARPA on this project come from various civilian institutions, including Brown University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the National Institutes of Health.
The team’s work was reported in the May 17 issue of Nature.
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