After spending 10 years in development, the mind-controlled LUKE bionic arm is ready to be rolled out.
Medical device company Mobius Bionics revealed that it will be selling LUKE by the end of the year. The prosthetic limb will be available through licensed professionals who are working in the healthcare industry.
LUKE was designed by Dean Kamen, the creator of the Segway personal transportation device, with funding received from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which develops emerging technologies for military use under the United States Department of Defense.
Originally named the DEKA arm, LUKE was named after Luke Skywalker from the popular Star Wars franchise, who also bears a prosthetic limb after losing his hand in Empire Strikes Back after a duel with Darth Vader. LUKE is not just a name though, as it stands for Life Under Kinetic Evolution.
LUKE first entered development in 2006, when DARPA sought ideas for modern prosthetics for the upper extremities. Among the amputees who will be using the technology are soldiers who would come back from their tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Since then, LUKE has been tested by almost 100 amputees over 10,000 hours of usage. The bionic arm received approval from the FDA two years ago, and it won't be long before it will be available to all amputees.
The main feature of LUKE is that its control system allows the wearer to use their mind to operate the prosthetic arm. This is made possible through the electrodes that are placed on the limb that was amputated, which pick up the electrical signals coming from the wearer's muscles. By tensing or flexing their arm, LUKE will change its grip and position.
LUKE presents a drastic upgrade to basic prosthetic limbs, which are either controlled by buttons and switches or have to be manually adjusted. The bionic arm also offers more degrees of movement and flexibility, as the wrist, elbow and shoulder are all powered individually. The hand also contains four independent motors for added dexterity, with force sensors located in the fingers to provide the wearer with feedback on how hard their grip is on an object.
LUKE also has a separate control system option that utilizes wireless sensors in the shoe of the wearer.
Such breakthrough technology will certainly come at a steep price. While Mobius has not indicated the price tag for LUKE, it will most likely be in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Other recent news that made headlines regarding prosthetic limbs is a new robotic arm researchers are developing to allow wearers to restore their sense of touch.