Real Life Tech :
An interview on how DARPA is adapting to a changing tech landscape
Q: Part of what this office is going to do is study prostheses. You’re thinking about Wi-Fi communication between a robotic arm and the brain?
DARPA did the investment over the last two years that allowed us to do two things. One was to develop much more sophisticated prosthetics so that, for example, you can gracefully pick up a grape - much more natural kinds of motions in a robotic arm. And then we did the really radical part, which was also to try to understand what was going on with neurons in the brain when motor control happened. And then, based on some of that early research we were able - about a year ago - to do some of the early human trials. We had quadriplegic volunteers who agreed to have brain surgery, essentially have a small array placed on the surface of their brains, to pick up these neural signals for motor control, and then to use those to control these new, very sophisticated, robotic, prosthetic arms. In a sense we’ve opened a door - a connection between the human brain and the rest of the world. You can let your imagination go wild about where that’s going to take us.
Neuroprosthetics: Once more, with feeling
Prosthetic arms are getting ever more sophisticated. Now they just need a sense of touch.
Sitting motionless in her wheelchair, paralysed from the neck down by a stroke, Cathy Hutchinson seems to take no notice of the cable rising from the top of her head through her curly dark hair. Instead, she stares intently at a bottle sitting on the table in front of her, a straw protruding from the top. Her gaze never wavers as she mentally guides a robot arm beside her to reach across the table, close its grippers around the bottle, then slowly lift the vessel towards her mouth. Only when she finally manages to take a sip does her face relax into a luminous smile.
Prosthesis Re-creates Sensation of Touch
A man whose hand and lower arm were amputated could sense shapes and stiffness and modulate the force of his grasp using a prosthetic hand that was temporarily wired to nerves in his upper arm.
Researchers surgically implanted electrodes into the upper-arm nerves of a man whose limb had been amputated at the forearm, partially and temporarily restoring his sense of touch and improving his ability to operate a motorized prosthesis, according to a paper published today (February 5) in Science Translational Medicine. The electrodes responded to sensors on the prosthetic hand and stimulated the upper-arm nerves that once extended down the limb, making the user feel like sensation was emanating from his missing hand. The device enabled the man, a 36-year-old amputee from Denmark named Dennis Aabo Sørensen, to apply varying levels of force with the prosthesis, and to distinguish between objects of varying shape and stiffness, even while unable to see what he was doing.
I NEVER ASKED FOR THIS
underneath my skin there is a violence,
it’s got a gun in its hands