Mind-controlled 'Star Wars' prosthetic hand approved by FDA

Health -

The FDA has approved a robotic hand / arm that can perform up to 10 separate complex functions, including allowing a handicapped person to use keys and zippers.

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Copyright 2014 Reuters
Copyright 2014 Reuters

The FDA on May 9 approved sales of a prosthetic hand made by private New Hampshire company DEKA, which was founded by Segway creator Dean Kamen. The robotic prosthetic weighs and looks like an adult human hand, and is controlled by the user's thoughts. (Video)

The hand has an onboard computer which interprets the signals being detected by electromyogram (EMG) electrodes placed at the end of the natural arm. DEKA has nicknamed the hand "Luke" after "Star Wars" character Luke Skywalker, who has a robotic hand. Copyright 2014 Reuters

The hand has an onboard computer which interprets the signals being detected by electromyogram (EMG) electrodes placed at the end of the natural arm. DEKA has nicknamed the hand "Luke" after "Star Wars" character Luke Skywalker, who has a robotic hand.

"90% of study participants were able to perform activities with the DEKA Arm System that they were not able to perform with their current prosthesis, such as using keys and locks, preparing food, feeding oneself, using zippers, and brushing and combing hair." FDA statement

The approval came after the FDA analyzed data from 36 people taking part in a Veterans Affairs trial. The hand was partially funded by the DoD's DARPA, which has given DEKA $40 million since 2006 to develop the hand (DEKA retains all sales and patent rights).

The prosthetic will not be available until DEKA finds a manufacturing partner to mass produce the device. No pricing has been given for the modular prosthetic, which can be extended to reach a full arm length, up to the shoulder, depending on the patient's amputation.

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