Defense

January 10, 2014

DARPA’s ‘bionic’ upper limb enhances life for amputees

It’s metal, sleek and precise. It pivots and flexes like a real hand, or at least one from a science-fiction movie.

But with no Hollywood special effects involved, brain research experts at yesterday’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Congressional Tech Showcase here demonstrated an artificial arm and hand that can do everything from picking up cups to playing the piano, powered by the user’s brain.

Mike McLoughlin, chief engineer for research and exploratory development at Johns Hopkins University’s applied physics laboratory, said DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program developed the device over about five years to improve the quality of life for service members who suffered the loss of an upper extremity.

“Five, six years ago [an amputee’s] option was essentially a hook,” McLoughlin said. “We want to give them a much greater level of functionality, because what they really want to do is go back and contribute to society.”

The demo also featured an excerpt from a 60 Minutes episode that aired in 2013 showing Jan, a patient suffering from a neurological condition, with two electrode chips, each about the size of a fingernail, in her brain.

Even simple tasks such as picking up a cup of coffee are the result of a complex series of commands and information “behind the scenes” in the brain, McLoughlin explained. “We’re able to take those complex things and reduce them down to simple thoughts.”

With the help of the arm and hand, Jan moved, interacted and grasped objects in a more natural way, McLoughlin said, adding that the arm also can function with information gleaned from a computer script.

He described the arm’s future and range of potential applications as “exciting” for service members and civilians alike.

“Think about the elderly,” he said. “If somebody has trouble getting around, and we can provide assistance through exoskeleton devices. That has huge impact, not only to the individual in terms of quality of life and being independent, but it also has huge financial implications, possibly saving them hospice care expenses.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Army photograph by Doug LaFon

Army researcher’s interest in robotics leads to innovative device

Army photograph by Doug LaFon Dan Baechle, left, from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Multifunctional Materials research team, has created a laboratory prototype of a device he designed to sense and damp out arm tremors for A...
 
 
Air Force photograph by TSgt. Joseph Swafford

Pave Hawk maintainers keep rescue birds flying

Air Force photograph by TSgt. Joseph Swafford Airman Joshua Herron, a 41st Expeditionary Helicopter Maintenance Unit HH-60 Pave Hawk crew chief, completes a 50-hour inspection on a Pave Hawk at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jun...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Benjamin Raughton

B-52s demonstrate strategic reach

Air Force photograph by SrA. Benjamin Raughton A B-52H Stratofortress is marshalled to a stop at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., after a 44-hour sortie July 2, 2015. Aircrew members and two B-52s from Barksdale AFB’s 96th ...
 

 
Untitled-2

Tactical reconnaissance vehicle project eyes hoverbike for defense

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, has been exploring the tactical reconnaissance vehicle, or TRV, concept for nearly nine months and is evaluating the hoverbike technology as a way to get Soldiers away from ground thre...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. William Banton

Upgraded AWACS platform tested at Northern Edge

Air Force photograph by SSgt. William Banton Maintenance crew members prepare an E-3G Sentry (AWACS) for takeoff during exercise Northern Edge June 25, 2015. Roughly 6,000 airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen ...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Marleah Robertson

First Marine graduates Air Force’s F-35 intelligence course

Air Force photograph by SSgt. Marleah Robertson Marine Corps 1st Lt. Samuel Winsted, an F-35B Lightning II intelligence officer, provides a mock intelligence briefing to two instructors during the F-35 Intelligence Formal Train...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>