Draper, an engineering company based in Cambridge, MA, has developed an electrode implant that may drastically improve how amputees control and feel through their prosthetic devices. Unlike other electrode arrays, Draper’s device is designed to have the electrodes wrap around the nerves and not simply be placed against them. This should allow for a much more targeted and nuanced electrical stimulation that would in turn lead to greater dexterity and tactile awareness.
The entire implant system is designed to be wireless, while transmitting as much as 20 megabits of data per second. This is important because dozens of electrodes can be used simultaneously and so the system would require to process quite a bit of information.
So far with the help of DARPA and University of Texas Southwestern, the device was tested in animal studies with promising results. The investigators are now gearing up for human trials that may begin within the next couple of months.
The team developing the device are working on miniaturizing it so it’s about the size of a pill, which would make it nearly invisible once implanted into the body.