Technology company DEKA and DARPA, partnered with analogue devices company ADI have evolved upper-limb prosthetics and are helping to improve the quality of life for amputees.
“Driven by Science. Inspired by Science Fiction” the Luke arm – fittingly named after sci-fi amputee Luke Skywalker has been made real by the engineering minds at DEKA research and development Corp.
The Luke arm is the most advanced prosthetic arm approved by the FDA that is capable of performing highly complex tasks, “a transformative innovation in upper-limb prosthetics”.
The project was commissioned by DARPA (the US governments Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), with an ambitious goal; to design a prosthetic arm with the functionality of a natural limb. Current prosthetic technology has been based on designs, which were pioneering 100 years ago. DARPA required a revolutionary product – a game-changer that could dramatically improve the quality of life for amputees – one that was delicate enough to pick up a soft fruit yet robust enough to handle heavy-duty tools.
ADI’s role was to deliver the trusted, high-performance technology that sits behind DEKA’s revolutionary innovation – making it possible.
What makes the Luke arm completely unique is its ability to carry out multiple, simultaneous powered movements. It’s wrist and fingers can adjust its positions to perform multiple different user-selectable grips. Force sensors in the hand also allow the user to precisely control grasp.
The size and weight of the arm is similar to that of a natural limb, and can be controlled by a number of inputs. EMG (electromyogram electrodes, which sense electrical activity on muscle close to where the prosthesis is attached is one method. A computer on the prosthesis receives the EMG signals and interprets them to make fingers open of close. Complex movements require additional control inputs. DEKA’s solution; special sensors on the users feet. These sensors wirelessly transmit signals to the Arms computer, allowing the user to control multiple joints simultaneously.
“It’s an innovation that is truly transforming. The lives of those who are touched by it”. Clinical studies have shown that 90% of the limbs users were able to perform complex tasks with the DEKA arm that they were not able to perform with their existing prosthesis.
“It’s ahead of what’s possible and it’s only the beginning”.
Or watch the arm in action.
Or watch Dean Kamen’s TED Talk.