Star Wars-inspired prosthetic lets amputee 'feel' again

  • Friday 26, July 2019 03:44 PM
Sharjah 24 – Reuters: Academics at the University of Utah have a developed a Star Wars-inspired prosthetic arm which allows people to use their minds to perform delicate tasks such as handling eggs and even plucking grapes.
The prosthetic is called the LUKE Arm and is named after Star Wars character Luke Skywalker's prosthetic from the film 'The Empire Strikes Back'.

One of seven test subjects at the university includes estate agent Keven Walgamott from West Valley City, Utah. He lost his left hand and part of his arm in an electrical accident 17 years ago.

Video released by the university shows him using a smart phone to text, putting on his wedding ring and shaking his wife's hand.

The arm is made of metal parts and motors with a clear silicon, skin-like covering the hand.

It has been a long-term project, in development for 15 years, but the latest refinement on the arm connects the arm to the wearer's nerves.

It is called the Utah Slanted Electrode Array, created by the university's Professor Richard A. Normann.

The array includes 100 microelectrodes and wires which are connected to the wearer's nerves in their forearm and also to a computer.

It receives signals from the nerves in the arm and the computer converts those signals into directions for the arm to move.

The hand also includes sensors which feel an object's hardness or softness. They send signals to the nerves via the array to give the user the sensation of holding something.

Researchers used recorded impulses from a primate's arm to make their calculations as realistic as possible.

They are also developing a portable LUKE Arm which is not physically wired to a computer. In the future they want to use the technology to have people feel pain and temperature.

Research team leader professor Gregory Clark said in a statement: "By providing a biologically realistic sense of touch to prosthetic hands, we hope to help users control the hand naturally and intuitively, and to have the arm feel like it's become part of their own body. We want to restore not only a sense of feeling, but also of feeling whole again."

The hope is that in 2020 or 2021 three people will be allowed to use the arms at home if federal approval is acquired, the university says.