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FDA Approves Robotic Prosthesis Controlled by Muscle Contractions

Researchers at DEKA have dubbed the prosthetic arm "Luke" after the Star Wars character.

DEKA Research

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first prosthetic arm that can perform multiple and simultaneous movements based on the electrical signals generated by muscle contractions. In that sense, the robotic arm is, as other publications have noted, controlled by the mind.

DEKA Integrated Solutions of Manchester, N.H., founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, developed the arm with funding from DARPA and the U.S. Army Research Office. Researchers there dubbed the prosthetic limb Luke, for the “Stars Wars” character who lost either his hand or his forearm in an epic lightsaber battle (depending on which part of the movie you’re watching).

In basic terms, electrodes near where the prosthesis is attached relay the electrical signals from muscles to a computer that translates them into as many as 10 motions, the FDA explained.

“This innovative prosthesis provides a new option for people with certain kinds of arm amputations,” said Christy Foreman, a director at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in a statement. “The DEKA Arm System may allow some people to perform more complex tasks than they can with current prostheses in a way that more closely resembles the natural motion of the arm.”

The FDA approval means DEKA can begin marketing the system for sale.

In 2009, “60 Minutes” featured the project in the segment below:

And Kamen previewed it at TED in 2007:

This article originally appeared on

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