JUL 30, 2019 10:58 AM PDT

Motorized prosthetic arm can sense touch, move with your thoughts

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Picking up an egg without crushing it seems like an easy task for anyone—but for Keven Walgamott, who lost his left hand and part of his arm from a major electrical accident 17 years ago, this task can prove to be herculean.

PHOTO CREDIT: University of Utah Center for Neural Interfaces, Keven Walgamott

Fortunately, Kevin was testing out a prototypic high-tech prosthetic arm with fingers that can with his thoughts. Suddenly, the idea of performing simple tasks, such as picking up an egg without breaking it, may soon prove possible. The prototypic arm is now known as the “LUKE Arm”-- named after the robotic hand that Luke Skywalker got in “The Empire Strikes Back”.

“We changed the way we are sending that information to the brain so that it matches the human body. And by matching the human body, we were able to see improved benefits,” says biomedical engineering associate professor, Gregory Clark. “We’re making more biologically realistic signals.”

Findings were published in the latest edition of the journal Science Robotics and describes how the LUKE Arm sends appropriate signals to the brain to imitate how a human hand feels objects. The study can advance the quality of life for amputees wearing the prosthetic arm by allowing them to sense the touch of something soft or hard, and to understand better how to perform delicate tasks that would otherwise be a challenge with a standard prosthetic with metal hooks or claws for hands.

“It almost put me to tears,” said Walgamott when using the LUKE Arm for the first time during clinical evaluations. “It was really amazing. I never thought I would be able to feel in that hand again.”

“One of the first things he wanted to do was put on his wedding ring. That’s hard to do with one hand,” says Clark. “It was very moving.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Dan Hixson/University of Utah College of Engineering. Greg Clark (right) and Jake George (left) with the LUKE arm.

“Just providing sensation is a big deal, but the way you send that information is also critically important, and if you make it more biologically realistic, the brain will understand it better and the performance of this sensation will also be better,” says Clark.

Believe it or not the LUKE Arm has been in development for roughly 15 years. Composed mostly of metal motors and parts with a clear silicon “skin” over the hand and is powered mostly by an external battery attached to a computer.

“This is an incredible interdisciplinary effort,” says Clark. “We could not have done this without the substantial efforts of everybody on that team.”

Source: The University of Utah

About the Author
  • Nouran earned her BS and MS in Biology at IUPUI and currently shares her love of science by teaching. She enjoys writing on various topics as well including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
You May Also Like
MAR 10, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAR 10, 2020
(Stop) Putting Crap into Graphene Research
In a recently published study, a group of Czech Republic researchers from the puts together two materials that are unlik ...
APR 19, 2020
Space & Astronomy
APR 19, 2020
NASA Pegs Official Launch Date for First Crewed SpaceX Flight
Those who’ve been following the hype shared by both NASA and SpaceX during the past couple of years would know tha ...
APR 23, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
APR 23, 2020
Wearable e-skin powered by sweat
What if your skin could monitor your heart rate, body temperature, and blood sugar levels? Well, not your skin, exactly ...
APR 16, 2020
Technology
APR 16, 2020
Technology Lights The Way For Safer Imaging Techniques
Current imaging techniques rely on the possibility of harmful radiation. To challenge that, researchers at John Hopkins ...
MAY 03, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAY 03, 2020
These Contractors Will Develop Lunar Landers for NASA's Artemis Mission
NASA seems to be moving quickly to get the ball rolling for its lunar-centric initiative dubbed Artemis. The program aim ...
MAY 26, 2020
Technology
MAY 26, 2020
Interactive Technology Can Solve Traffic Congestion
Can interactive technology help solve traffic congestion? New research indicates a yes! Apps like Waze and Google Maps m ...
Loading Comments...