A recent innovation has lived up to the true purpose of technology: improving peoples' lives. The Luke Arm, which has been given a thumbs up by FDA is a robotic prosthetic arm tested and approved for commercial use by amputees.
The Luke Arm (officially called DEKA Arm) system took the inventor Dean Kamen and his team about 8 years to create, develop and test. And just like good wine takes time to mature, the DEKA Arm turned out to be the most advanced robotic arm to receive not only approval, but also praise from FDA.
The invention comes at a time when cyborgs and robots are increasingly being used in the medical field to compensate where the body has failed. Soon with technology all forms of disability and illness may be a thing of the past.
The project to create the robotic arm is estimated to have cost $100 million. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded the project to a tune of $40 million. The aim of the project was to build a prosthetic arm that would help the amputee (who included soldiers) to carry out their functions just like they would with the natural arm.
The DEKA prototype is fitted with several control inputs and a computer which receives and interprets signals sent from elecromyogram (EMG) electrodes. When the EMG signals are interpreted, the user is able to control the arm by opening and closing the fingers and selecting different grasp options.
The prosthetic limb is aimed at improving the life of many people whose natural arm has been amputated for medical reasons or accidents. Though a natural arm can never be replaced, the Luke Arm is capable of performing multiple tasks just as those carried out by a natural arm.
It’s fitted with force sensors which enable the user to control the grasp and perform a variety of tasks from complex tasks to common day to day tasks. The arm can lift relatively heavy items or fragile things like egg while applying just the right grasp.
The arm is designed with the intended users’ suggestions put into consideration. The robotic arm is light, has the size of natural arm and a semi-transparent appearance, giving it a natural feel. Unlike its predecessor prototypes which were heavy with robotic resemblance. Multiple functions can be carried out simultaneously with the help of additional switches on the amputee feet, which send signals to a computer in the prosthetic arm.
Dean Kamen’s prosthesis uses modern technology and can perform better than any other prosthesis arm currently in the market. A study carried out and reviewed by FDA is a clear indication of the quality of the artificial arm. More than 90% of the people who participated in the study were able to performing a variety of task, from simple tasks to complex ones.
- The price is yet to be set with speculation that the price may be high due to the technology used,
- The robotic arm does not connected directly to the nerves and
- It’s only approved for 18 years and above patients.
The approval of the Luke arm by FDA will change many people's lives and bring happiness to many whose lives had been rendered difficult after amputation. The future can only get better with technological advancement.