Science and Health

'Star Wars' Prosthetic Arm Gains FDA Approval

A prosthetic arm controlled by electronic signals from muscle movement has gained approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

'Star Wars' Prosthetic Arm Gains FDA Approval
DARPA
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DARPA's Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, which aimed to gain U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for a "prosthetic upper limb with near-natural control mechanisms," has been successful. DARPA says the FDA approved the DEKA Arm System shown here in less than eight years after the start of the program. 

The agency says the aim of the program is to offer more choices for amputees. The split-hook prosthetic commonly used by amputees was invented in 1912. (Via DARPA, Flickr / Divine Harvester)

Using specialized sensors attached to the upper arm or the feet, the device can translate what the user aims to do — turning electrical signals in the muscles into movement. (Via  ​DARPA)

DARPA says the battery-powered arm is comparable to a natural arm in weight and size. The system is delicate enough to handle grapes and even eggs, as we showed you before.

A writer for Bloomberg says DARPA provided $40 million in funding to DEKA Research and Development Corp., the arm's developer.

According to the outlet, researchers at the company nicknamed the device "Luke," after a certain amputee who lost his arm in a lightsaber fight. (Via Lucasfilm / "The Empire Strikes Back")

A writer for The Verge notes this is the first prosthetic of its kind to get FDA approval. The device's ability to "accomplish multiple, robotically-powered movements at once" is what makes it unique.

In a press release announcing approval of the DEKA arm, the FDA said the device had a positive impact on its users. It allowed "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."

FDA approval of the device will allow the company to manufacture and sell the DEKA arm — no word on pricing or when it could be brought to market. (Via DARPA)