A Bionic, Mind-Controlled Arm, From the Inventor of the Segway

The FDA just approved a prosthetic arm that amputees can control with their brains.
More

The Segway was supposed to change everything ... until it became the preferred transportation of walking tours and shopping mall security. But now its inventor, Dean Kamen, is back with a new creation that might be slightly more revolutionary.

Enter the DEKA limb, the first FDA-approved robotic arm that's powered by the wearer's mind. Electrodes attached to the arm near the prosthesis detect muscle contraction, and those signals are then interpreted into specific movements by a computer, the FDA announced on Friday.

"The device is modular so that it can be fitted to people who’ve suffered any degree of limb loss, from an entire arm to a hand," Bloomberg Businessweek reported. "Six 'grip patterns' allow wearers to drink a cup of water, hold a cordless drill or pick up a credit card or a grape, among other functions."

A Department of Veterans Affairs study of the DEKA arm found that 90 percent of study participants were able to use locks and keys, zippers, and combs with the arm—all activities they hadn't been able to do with their existing prosthetics. 

More than 1,500 Americans have lost a leg or arm in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The DEKA arm is part of a larger, $100 million Defense Department program aimed at improving prosthetics.

The arm's creators are calling it "Luke" after the amputee Star Wars character, naturally.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Olga Khazan is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers health.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Hunting With Poison Darts

An indigenous forest dweller in Borneo explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In