The foot-controlled "Luke" prosthetic arm may not win any lightsaber fights, but it could soon lend a helping hand to wounded warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. A three-year study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is slated to provide engineering feedback before widespread distribution to veterans, according to an announcement last week.
The prosthetic arm is the brainchild of Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and founder of DEKA Research and Development. DEKA has fine-tuned a control system that acts like a foot-operated joystick -- users maneuver the arm by shifting pressure to different parts of a shoe embedded with an array of sensors. Future wireless versions may circumvent the wires that currently relay signals from shoe to arm.
It sounds potentially clumsy, and yet the arm has demonstrated enough sensitivity to pick up pencils and keys. A vibration signal provides user feedback to indicate how tightly the artificial hand is gripping an object.
Frederick Downs, Jr., director of VA's Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service and a Vietnam veteran who lost his left arm, described being "brought to tears" when the prosthetic arm permitted him to take a drink of bottled water in one smooth motion. The arm also allows users to perform movements while reaching over their heads.
The DARPA-backed arm also need not rely on a foot-controlled system in the future. Engineers can adapt it to work with more conventional shoulder joysticks, or even myoelectric switches wired directly to nerves and muscles in the upper body that respond to brain impulses.
If the "Luke" arm does eventually merit mass distribution to veterans, it could represent one of the sweetest triumphs yet for an inventor who already has a long list of medical devices to his name. It's pretty cool to an avid Star Wars fan, too.
I guess you can't use the arm and walk at the same time. Could be dangerous having that thing flailing around as you run down the street. On another note....AWESOME!!! What about power, how long does the battery last?
Very interesting story. And I suppose this is the worst kind of niggling/nitpicking... but in terms of journalistic style... shouldn't it be defined why, exactly, this is called a "Luke" arm? I happen to understand it simply because I do; and of course there's hinting. But again, in terms of professional style, I'd think that such an unusual derivation requires explanation.
Again, no real quibble with the article content, but just a thought.
WAY TO GO DEAN!!!
Technically, Luke didn't lose his arm. Only his hands at the wrist/mid-forearm. So, it's not really accurate to call it the "Luke Arm" when the real thing was only a prosthetic hand. And even then, Luke had feedback through the hand which somehow fed into his nervous system to give him tactile sensation.
Robert1234 The best thing to do is not creat the need by useless and self-defeating wars. With a current 65% casualty rate, this is the worst war America has ever fought. It's also the first war in history where the idiots who started it admitted it was a mistake and then continued on for years and years and billions of dollars and thousands of casualties. Frankly, the idiots who participate in what they know is an illegal and useless war get very little of my sympathy. We've killed some 650,000 kids with the sanctions, about 200,000 Iraqi who never did anything to us until we illegally invaded, and I'm supposed to feel sorry for the idiots doing the killing? Then need to be in prison, from my point of view. "It's not why you went to war, it's that you went to war at all." Nurenburg trial of Nazi war criminals.
Now is the arm, future is a great auto robot, I will wait too see that auto robot.
Robert1234, you have an over simplistic view of geopolitics. We always have and will kill each other for resources/perceived advantage. We evolved to be competitive, and it has served us well. We use sanctions because we cant make them stand in the corner. If push comes to shove you kick some butt. I dont mind if you dont like soldiers, and most of them could probably care less. The world is a complex place, and we cant talk all our problems away. Israel has tried talking for years, but most arab countries would like to see them wiped off the map. Thank Dog for men that have the balls to fight. I wish it weren't so, but that is the world in which we live.