Robotic Arm Aims to ‘Repay Some of the Debt’ to Wounded Warriors

PHOTO: Sensors in the hand of the DEKA Arm System can provide feedback on grip strength.
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A robotic arm commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense to “repay some of the debt” owed to wounded military service members has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration eight years after its inception.

The cutting-edge prosthetic, known as the DEKA Arm System, was dreamed up in 2006 as part of a “Revolutionizing Prosthetics” program at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA.

“DARPA is a place where we can bring dreams to life,” said Dr. Geoffrey Ling, director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office and a retired Medical Corps neuro-critical care doctor. Ling launched the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program to provide better care “to repay some of the debt we owe to our service members,” according to a statement.

PHOTO: The DEKA Arm System is capable of handling objects as delicate as grapes and eggs and also manipulating power tools, such as a hand drill.
Courtesy darpa.mil
PHOTO: The DEKA Arm System is capable of handling objects as delicate as grapes and eggs and also manipulating power tools, such as a hand drill.

The battery-powered arm, developed by DEKA Integrated Solutions in Manchester, N.H., uses wireless signals activated by sensors on the feet to move multiple joints and has six user-selectable grips that can handle delicate objects like grapes and eggs as well as hardy tools like power drills. It was approved on Friday for adults based on the results of a Department of Veterans Affairs-funded study of 36 patients.

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