The US government just paid $120 million dollars to manufacture a robotic arm. Yes, the world’s first fully functional mind-controlled artificial arm. This arm was designed by John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and was also funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The program named “Revolutionizing Prosthetics” focused on creating prosthetics that could be controlled by the brain to help function in areas where motor control has been lost or a man is disabled to help restore the function.
The candidate: Johnny Matheny
The Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL) was delivered to Johnny Matheny of Florida, now the world’s first human being to live with an advanced mind control arm. Johnny Matheny received this arm in December and will continue testing it for the year on.
In 2005, Matheny lost his left arm due to cancer. What started as a protrusion, spread quickly and Johnny was forced to lose his limb. Cancer, Johnny states has only affected four other people on record. He was told that he would lose his limb or die. Matheny made a huge decision to have his left arm amputated. After that Johnny managed to survive 2 years without any further danger of cancer spreading in his body, which was nothing less of a miracle.
Matheny decided to put his good fortune to use. He offered himself as a guinea pig for improving technology. He was introduced to above-mentioned technology and he quickly agreed to have the implant made. The robotic arm is, however, much more technical than it seems.
How the Artificial Arm works:
The arm includes an artificial limb attached to the actual bones of a human being, in such a way that the nerves which were to meet the subject’s hand meet his artificial hand instead. The neural transmissions that were sent to his hand instead move to his upper arm. Matheny has two bands wrapped around his left bicep which sense the neural messages. The bands then function by using “Bluetooth” to signal the transmissions to the elbow which then uses Wi-Fi transmission to signal the movements of the robotic arm.
Matheny hopes that this technology may help to revolutionize prosthetic tech and help people dealing with amputations. Johnny now claims that he has become so accustomed to his artificial arm he calls it his own. Johnny still, however, uses a smartphone app to reset the speed or functioning of the arm, and it gets better with each update.
Matheny is however not allowed to get the gear wet, or to drive whilst wearing the robotic arm. And since he is a test subject, he will at some point have to return the arm. However, with advancements, access to this tech will be made easily available and people will be able to reclaim their lost limbs.
Revolutionizing Modular Prosthetic Limbs
Dr. Justin Sanchez, office director of Biological Technologies Office at DARPA says, “The Revolutionizing Prosthetics program seeks to address these challenges by restoring near-natural hand and arm control to people living with the loss of an upper limb. The resulting technologies could improve warfighter rehabilitation, restore function and independence to individuals living with amputation or paralysis, and offer wounded warriors the prospect of an eventual return to duty.”
The bionic arm is now being tested to help injured soldiers during military services. New versions of this arm are being developed and will allow the subject to feel the sensations of heat, cold, and even pain as any normal human would feel.