The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new "Luke Skywalker" robotic arm, or DEKA Arm System, that is controlled by electromyogram (EMG) sensors activated by the wearer.
The black and silver prosthetic, which is manufactured by DEKA Integrated Solutions in Manchester, New Hampshire, was inspired by Luke Skywalker’s robotic arm in Star Wars.
Created by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, the new arm is the same shape and weight as a human arm. It detects muscle contractions close to the area where the prosthesis is attached, allowing a person to flex certain muscles and make 10 different powered movements.
According to Discovery News, "Tests on 36 US military veterans who had lost their lower arms showed that 90 percent found the robotic device allowed them to do tasks they could not with their current prosthetics, including using keys and locks, making food, feeding themselves, using zippers and brushing their hair."
The development of the robotic arm was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and reportedly took eight years to go from the drawing board to FDA approval.
"The electrodes send the electrical signals to a computer processor in the prosthesis that translates them to a specific movement or movements," the FDA says.
"This innovative prosthesis provides a new option for people with certain kinds of arm amputations," says Christy Foreman, director of the Office of Device Evaluation at the Food and Drug Administration. "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."
While DEKA Integrated Solutions has received approval to sell the "Luke Skywalker" arm, no price or availability has been set.