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FDA Approves Robotic Prosthetic Arm Named After Luke Skywalker

DARPA handout image shows the DEKA Arm System

The FDA has approved the sale of the DEKA arm system after concluding studies found 90% of users were capable of performing complex, delicate tasks when using the device. The prosthetic arm was dubbed Luke after “Star Wars” character Luke Skywalker whose hand was lost in a battle with Darth Vader and later replaced with a robotic one. The prosthetic works by using electrical signals generated by contracting muscles near the site of its attachment. From Reuters:

The FDA said the device is the first prosthetic arm that can carry out multiple, simultaneous movements controlled by signals from electromyogram electrodes that detect electrical activity caused as a person contracts muscles.

The electrodes send signals to a computer processor in the arm, which can then make up to 10 specific movements using a combination of switches and sensors.

“The DEKA Arm System may allow some people to perform more complex tasks than they can with current prostheses in a way that more closely resembles the natural motion of the arm,” Christy Foreman, director of the Office of Device Evaluation at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement. The Pentagon’s involvement came about because of the type of injuries sustained by U.S. troops in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Pentagon said more than 1,800 U.S. service members underwent major limb amputations as a result of injuries sustained in those wars.

“This prosthetic limb system can pick up objects as delicate as a grape, as well be able to handle very rugged tools like a hand drill,” Sanchez said.

Until now, the best technology available to troops and other who lost an arm was a metal hook, Sanchez said. “The metal hook was the most commonly used prosthetic device for the last hundred years.”

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