DARPA’s initiative to build a prosthetic arm that’s fully controllable via a wearer’s mind has won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (via Verge), a key green light that will let it edge closer to wide-scale production and distribution. The next step is to find someone to build the device, and then it can start helping amputees cope with the loss of their limbs.
The so-called DEKA-arm uses tech similar to that employed by the MYO armband, detecting electrical impulses in the upper arm before the sever point and interpreting that info to translate it into a gesture. Unlike the MYO, however, this isn’t about turning a regular arm movement into an interface interaction on a computing device – instead, it translates directly to what the movement would’ve been in a natural human arm had the electrical impulse had room to run its course.
The arm is capable of fine movement and delicate control, operating zippers and picking up fragile objects without breaking them in the process. It’s the first device of its kind to do multiple simultaneous robotic actions, which makes it a far more accurate simulation of a biological limb than anything that has come before. I’m sure it’ll be a while before these make their way out beyond the community of medical users, but it’s a step towards that possible future so you might as well prepare now for the bio-enhancements of tomorrow.