DARPA Has Achieved Feeling With Robotic Limbs
Getting diagnosed paralyzed or losing a limb has to be one of the worst individual experiences a person can have. Thankfully, things could be looking up for these patients because DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has restored the sense of touch with a prosthetic hand given to a paralyzed person. Now, the patient can move the limbs with thought.
“We’ve completed the circuit,” said DARPA program manager Justin Sanchez. “Prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by thoughts are showing great promise, but without feedback from signals traveling back to the brain it can be difficult to achieve the level of control needed to perform precise movements. By wiring a sense of touch from a mechanical hand directly into the brain, this work shows the potential for seamless bio-technological restoration of near-natural function.”
DARPA basically takes a dream and turns it a reality. Sure, this man was paralyzed, but DARPA gave feeling to a robotic limb. Again, DARPA managed to put a robotic limb on a person that could feel anything and “with almost 100 percent accuracy” say which of the mechanical fingers on the hand were being touched.
This isn’t just a win for the paralyzed, this is a win for everyone that has lost a limb. Do you know how many veterans of wars have lost a limb in battle? Someone that lost a limb in an accident? Lost a limb to disease? Imagine putting a prosthetic limb onto them and not have the patient an entire room of people watching break down into tears.
How did they manage to do this? In science fiction, it’s usually explained away in some non-sensical sentence, but this is real life.
The clinical work involved the placement of electrode arrays onto the paralyzed volunteer’s sensory cortex—the brain region responsible for identifying tactile sensations such as pressure. In addition, the team placed arrays on the volunteer’s motor cortex, the part of the brain that directs body movements.
Wires were run from the arrays on the motor cortex to a mechanical hand developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) at Johns Hopkins University. That gave the volunteer—whose identity is being withheld to protect his privacy—the capacity to control the hand’s movements with his thoughts, a feat previously accomplished under the DARPA program by another person with similar injuries. (Via DARPA)
Why this isn’t front page news of every paper, website, magazine, or television news show is beyond me. A person using their thoughts to move their mechanical limbs AND feeling their mechanical limbs is amazing. Huzzah for science!
Follow Jeff Sorensen on TWITTER
Jeff Sorensen is an author, writer and occasional comedian living in Detroit, Michigan. You can look for more of his work on The Huffington Post, UPROXX, BGR and by just looking up his name.