Amputees will soon get help from a groundbreaking bionic arm, thanks to the inventor of the Segway and a little inspiration from “Star Wars.”
After almost eight years of research and testing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the DEKA arm, a prosthetic controlled by signals from the brain.
Unlike most current prostheses, the DEKA can perform such delicate tasks like zipping up a coat, unlocking a door with a key or handling an egg without breaking it.
Funded by DARPA, the research branch of the Pentagon, the DEKA project was overseen by Dean Kamen, who invented the Segway personal vehicle.
Kamen nicknamed the DEKA arm “Luke” after Luke Skywalker, the “Star wars” hero who was fitted for a prosthetic after losing his right hand in a light-saber duel with Darth Vader.
The FDA is calling the device the first prosthetic arm that can perform multiple, simultaneous movements via electromyogram electrodes, which detect electrical signals from the contraction of muscles close to where the prosthesis is attached.
The battery-powered arm is about the size and weight of a natural limb and has six different grips. A computer in the device can tell what type of movement its wearer wants to make.