Paralyzed Man Can Feel Sense Of Touch Through Mind-Controlled Robotic Arm

Uncle Sam’s skunkworks is well on its way to creating a prosthetic hand like the one Luke Skywalker received in “The Empire Strikes Back.” The prosthetic allows the person equipped with it not only to move the robotic hand but to feel sensations on the individual fingers.

After researchers at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University implanted electrodes in the brain of a 28-year old volunteer paralyzed by a spinal cord injury, he was able to control the motion of the arm and could sense when people in the lab touched different fingers on the prosthetic hand.

The Revolutionizing Prosthetics group and the test subject demonstrated the new technology on Sept. 11 during a conference hosted by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency.

“At one point, instead of pressing one finger, the team decided to press two without telling him,” DARPA program manager Justin Sanchez, who oversees the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, said in a statement. “He responded in jest asking whether somebody was trying to play a trick on him. That is when we knew that the feelings he was perceiving through the robotic hand were near-natural.”

People watching the prosthetics space will naturally see this news as part of a longer continuum of progress. In 2012, “60 Minutes” reported on a DARPA breakthrough that (you guessed it) enabled people to move robotic limbs with their minds.

Earlier, DARPA’s Revolutionary Prosthetics program also funded the development of another prosthetic arm at DEKA Research. The latest version of the DEKA arm, pictured below, was created with the help of 35 volunteer amputees who participated in a Department of Veterans Affairs study.

What’s new with the robo-hand from Johns Hopkins is the —> Read More