As the United States’ military research branch, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) cares a lot for our wounded servicemen. According to DARPA, over 2000 of them have had limbs amputated since 2000, so prosthetics are an area of great interest for the agency. DARPA has been funding research into advanced bionic arms since 2009, and this week posted a couple videos demonstrating some of the progress to date.
The first video shows a prototype developed by a team of researchers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). Known as “targeted muscle re-innervation” (TMR), this new technology involves rewiring nerves from amputated limbs, creating new interfaces that allow for prosthetic control with existing muscles.
DARPA has also worked with researchers at Case Western Reserve University on a new neural interface called “flat interface nerve electrode” (FINE). It utilizes the residual nerves in a patient’s partial limb to communicate with a prosthetic, which amazingly gives the patient direct sensory feedback.
The video below shows a patient who can feel through his prosthetic arms as he picks up and manipulates blocks. In initial testing, the man was clearly better at moving blocks around with the help of the new sensory feedback electrodes:
DARPA press release: New Nerve and Muscle Interfaces Aid Wounded Warrior Amputees…
(hat tip: Engadget)