Robot arm gets US government-backing for release

12 May 2014

A robotic arm that is attached to human muscle fibres and can pick up everyday objects has received the necessary US federal approval for mass production.

Known as the Deka Arm, the robotic device has been designed for amputees who, with this new device, will be able to pick up everyday objects both big and small, signifying a huge improvement on previous prosthetic arms.

Up until now, the only arms available featured a basic hook which could only pick up a limited number of objects and had changed little since prosthetic arms first began appearing en masse following the first arrivals of veterans from the first World War.

The technology behind the revolutionary arm has been developed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – more commonly known as DARPA – which spent almost US$40m out of a pool of US$100m in research funding dedicated to its Revolutionising Prosthetics project.

However, in order for the arm, known as ‘Luke’ among its creators after the character Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars franchise, to go into mass production, it first required approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to Reuters, Christy Foreman, director of the Office of Device Evaluation at the FDA’s Centre for Devices and Radiological Health, said, “The DEKA Arm System may allow some people to perform more complex tasks than they can with current prostheses in a way that more closely resembles the natural motion of the arm.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic