Great invention: The “Luke” Arm

15 09 2008

The “Luke” arm weighing only 8 pounds!

Remember the robotic arm which Luke Skywalker got in Star Wars? Believe it or not, a robotic arm that shows hope of this fictional arm becoming a reality soon has been invented! Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, and his fantastic team has invented a robotic arm (called the “Luke” arm) that can be controlled using brain signals to such a high level of precision that the user is able to dismantle a gun, put it back together and shoot with it.

Check out the short demo video:

Gizmodo wrote about this as well and included 3 videos of an interview with Dean Kamen from the All Things D: D6 Conference. I recommend that you watch all 3 videos as it is a very motivating talk that left me very excited about the technology behind it for many days.

What I really liked about the videos is how Dean shared a lot about his experience of not only the technology behind it but also how his team identified problems existent in current inventions and set out to solve them. He begins the talk with how he was approached by the US army with a mission to create advanced, realistic arms reading off brain signals for soldiers who lost their limbs. They demanded that he finish it within 2 years. Although it seemed impossible at first, Dean and his team decided to take on the challenge being inspired by how much these arms would mean to these young, energetic soldiers. He also shares, with demonstrations, the various testing phases conducted, what they learnt from them and the problem solving process they went through to improve the arm further.

The thing that got me really intrigued about the talk was the segment about their findings with brain signals. Currently, with surgery, the arm is able to read and react to brain signals from the human brain. Although it is still one-way where signals are sent from the brain to the arm and not vice-versa, it is a huge step towards creating more “natural” inventions for humans. The team is currently looking at ways to read brain signals emitted through the human skull using infra-red technology. If this was possible, surgery wouldn’t be needed anymore and users will be able to easily switch from one invention to another as technology advances.

All in all this invention left me going “WOW” over and over because apart from it being an ingenious creation, I believe the discoveries made throughout the whole project has also opened the door wider to many other great inventions to come be it new ones, those in the making or even those already made.


P.S: Many many thanks to Chris for telling me about this!




5 responses

15 09 2008
Mohan Belani

Nice stuff.. This is really interesting.. Brain computer systems have been out there for really long.. I will probably be quite a while before technology like this actually gets used.. waiting for that! 🙂

15 09 2008

@Mohan: The “Luke” arm is still undergoing clinical trials as there is still some amount of control fine tuning to do in order to make it suitable for everyone. I believe they’ll get the remote control version out first before the one that utilizes brain signals. Even then, the remote control version rocks!

16 09 2008

then the next problem comes.. how to securely attach the arm onto the patient :/

16 09 2008

@James: Oh they found a solution for that as well. In one of the first 2 videos of the interview, he shared how his team designed the arm so that it would simulate real muscles on the chest. There is this “guard” that you wear around your chest so that the weight and load of the arm is not felt on your shoulder at all (not to mention the arm is only 8 pounds). When no signals are being sent to the arm, the guard around the chest loosens up but when signals are detected, the guard tightens up to simulate our chest and shoulder muscles tightening up to move our arms. 😀

18 10 2008
CEATEC 2008 « Bits & Bytes make a Bitbot

[…] I know some of you were expecting to see some super cool robots. I was expecting that too!! but to my disappointment, none of the robots were really “mind-blowing”. They were more like like car driving assistants, a robot that can cycle and another that could do bowling. Pretty ordinary stuff especially when you compare it to the bionic arm by Dean Kamen. […]

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