WATCH: Rock Climber Employs Robotic Arm

Prosthetic helps veteran who lost limb

The DEKA Arm System allows wearers to control fingers more adeptly and feel how firmly they're grasping an object. (DARPAtv/YouTube)
Photo: DARPAtv/YouTube

A U.S. Army veteran at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, has returned to rock climbing using a robotic arm, according to CNET. The arm, designed by DEKA Research and Development Corp., provides amputees with feedback on how firmly they’re grasping an object, allowing them a high level of dexterity and opening the door to sports that are out of reach for users of many other prosthetic limbs.

The arm, which received FDA approval last May to be sold commercially, uses electromyogram electrodes to read signals sent by muscles in the surviving parts of the arm and shoulder, as well as wireless sensors on the wearer’s feet. Amputees can use the arm to control multiple joints and command subtle movements in individual fingers on the hand, making it possible for them to open and close zippers, drink from plastic water bottles, and participate in sports like rock climbing.

DEKA founder Dean Kamen, who invented the Segway, has named the new product line “Luke,” an homage to the bionic arm–toting hero of the Star Wars films. Since the project’s inception, the company has tested with 36 participants through a Department of Veterans Affairs study, according to CNET.

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