Double-amputee successfully tests highly-advanced bionic arms

19 Dec 2014

Double-amputee es Baugh testing the Modular Prosthetic Limbs. Image via Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Les Baugh, a man who lost both his arms in an electrical accident was selected as the first person to test the Applied Physics Laboratory’s (APL) new bionic limbs controlled through his thought processes.

Known as the Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL), the two bionic arms were attached to Baugh’s arms from the shoulder-level, and were controlled by Baugh’s thoughts that the ASP claim will give other amputees the ability to perform near-natural functions.

According to, before Baugh could begin controlling his limbs with his brain, he had to undergo surgery to reassign his nerves that were once used to control his limbs to the APL system that would let him control his bionic arms.

Once completed, he had to then put his new re-wired body through its paces with training provided by researchers to get his mind ready for use with the MPLs, particularly with the system of pattern recognition.

The researchers also used advanced algorithms to detect which muscles are contracting following Baugh’s thoughts and how well the nerves and system communicated with one another.

After the training, Baugh says, it took just under 10 days before he was picking up objects and moving them to various heights that in human arms requires eight separate motions to complete.

The next step for Baugh is to receive his own set of MPLs to see whether he can adapt to life with them in his own home, which given the fact he has had no arms for 40 years, is inevitably going to be a boon to even the most common of tasks.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic