This morning we wrote that DARPA is about to decide whether to continue development of the world’s most advanced prosthesis, now called the Luke Arm. A press release from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory announcing $31 million of funding from DARPA, and Hopkins’ leading role in the next stage of development, sounds like a bright green light for the project.
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., has received a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to complete development of a prosthetic arm that will be controlled, feel, look and perform like a natural limb. Funding will support Phase 2 of DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 (RP 2009) program, an ambitious effort to provide the most advanced medical and rehabilitative technologies for military personnel injured in the line of duty.
In Phase 1, the APL-led RP 2009 team of approximately 30 organizations developed two prototypes. The first prototype, presented to DARPA less than a year after the project started, is a fully integrated prosthetic arm that can be controlled naturally, provide sensory feedback and allows for eight degrees of freedom – a level of control far beyond the current state of the art for prosthetic limbs. The Proto 1 limb system also includes a virtual environment used for patient training, clinical configuration, and to record limb movements and control signals during clinical investigations.
The second prototype, demonstrated at DARPA Tech 2007 last August, has 25 individual joints that approach the natural speed and range of motion of the human limb. These mechanical limb systems are complemented by a range of emerging neural integration strategies that promise to restore near-natural control and important sensory feedback capabilities.
Press releases: DARPA Gives APL-Led Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 Team Green Light for Phase 2; APL to Lead Team Developing Revolutionary Prosthesis
UPDATE: It appears that we’ve got mixed up by all the ongoing bionic arms projects. Medgadget reader TroyTurner left the following important comment:
I would like to clarify some of the information in your article above as it appears that two great research efforts are being confused &/or intermingled. While your headline, accompanying photo, and first sentence are about the Deka “Luke Arm”, the rest of the story is about the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (JHU-APL) device. Of course this also means that your headline isn’t totally accurate. DARPA has awarded a phase II contract to JHU-APL, not Deka (though that is still being pursued.)
In 2004/5, The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded two distinctly separate prosthetic arm development projects.
One was called “Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2007”, and was awarded to DEKA R&D (www.dekaresearch.com). The Deka effort, now being referred to as “The Luke Arm” (pictured in your post above), has been completed. The goal of this project was to build the very best prosthetic upper limb that could be built using currently available technology. It is possible that DARPA will fund a phase II for further work, though that has not yet happened.
The other award, “Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009”, went to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (JHU-APL). Managed by Stuart Harshbarger at JHU-APL, this international effort to develop an advanced neural controlled upper limb is well described in the news release from JHU-APL that you’ve included in your post above.
An important distinction between the two programs is that the APL effort includes the development of true neural control of the device, while the Deka “Luke Arm” is currently controlled using myoelectric controls, though Deka is working with other organizations to enable additional control methodologies.
Because of the goals & program names, this can be confusing even for folks who are close to the work. Great things coming out of these efforts: of course some amazing advances in prosthetics, but I also believe we’re also going to see advances in many other area of biomed, robotics, etc. in years to come with roots embedded in these efforts.
Agreed. The search of our archives brings the following post from April 2007 about the JHU-APL integrated prosthetic arm project: Bionic Arm 2.0, Watch Out Dean Kaman. We appologize for the confusion.