‘Luke Skywalker’ Bionic Arm For Amputees To Be Released By The End Of 2016

One of the world’s most advanced prosthetics, the LUKE arm, will be released for commercial use by the end of this year. Designed by Segway creator Dean Kamen and funded by US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), this mind-controlled bionic arm has been under development for almost a decade.

Inspired and named after the Star Wars sci-fi hero Luke Skywalker, the ‘LUKE arm’ will provide amputees with mechanical strength and agility far surpassing anything seen before.

“Up to this point, design in prosthetic arms has been limited to incremental changes. We developed the LUKE arm to change the game for amputees — creating an innovative, integrated system that offers greater functionality and independence to our wounded warriors and other amputees,” said Kamen.

The LUKE bionic arm first entered the development stage in 2006. Since then, it was tested on nearly 100 amputees and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration two years ago.

What differentiates the LUKE arm from other prosthetic limbs out there is its mind-control and intuitive capabilities. Also, a separate control system is available for the LUKE that uses wireless sensors placed in the user’s shoe.

Through the electromyogram (EMG) electrodes placed on the amputated limb, the user can operate the bionic arm with just their minds. The electrodes placed on the residual limb picks up electrical signals from the user’s muscles. For instance, the LUKE changes its position and grip when the user tenses or flexes their arm.

The LUKE bionic arm offers more movement and flexibility to the user because the elbow, shoulder, and wrist function individually, which allows the user to reach over their head and behind their back. Force sensors on the prosthetic arm’s fingers allow the user to have different grip patterns and strength. Those sensors provide the user’s needed dexterity to safely hold fragile objects like eggs and heavier ones such as a gallon of juice.

However, this breakthrough technology along with innovative features will certainly come at a steep price. While the creators of the LUKE arm have yet to announce the price of the prosthetic, one medical supply company, Qmed estimated the price of one prosthetic arm to be around US$100,000.