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FDA approves bionic arm inspired by ‘Star Wars’ technology

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new prosthetic that's controlled by brainwave signals — the dubbed DEKA arm with "Star Wars" movie-like technology that enables the user to perform even the most delicate of tasks.

Among the activities that can be performed by the prosthetic: Unlocking a door, zipping a coat, brushing hair and handling an egg, CNN reported.

It took nearly eight years for the FDA to sign off on the DARPA-funded prosthetic design, CNN reported. Now the federal agency is touting it as the first prosthetic arm that's able to move in multiple directions and perform several simultaneous tasks, using electromyogram electrodes — or electrical signals that stem from muscle contractions, CNN said.

The device is small, about the same weight and size as a regular arm.

"This innovative prosthesis provides a new option for people with certain kinds of arm amputations," said Christy Foreman, director of FDA's Office of Device Evaluation, in CNN. "[The DEKA arm] 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."

The arm was created by DEKA Integrated Solutions in New Hampshire, and can now be legally marketed and sold in the United States. Its development was overseen by the same man who created the Segway travel device, Dean Kamen.

Mr. Kamen nicknamed the device "Luke" after Luke Skywalker, the character in the movie "Star Wars" who lost his hand during a light-saber fight and was subsequently fitted with a prosthetic, CNN reported.

"I never thought in my lifetime I'd see something this functional," said amputee Chuck Hildreth, who lost both arms, CNN reported. "It's definitely going to change my life, and more importantly, it's going to change the life of my family. Because ... I'm going to be less dependent on them."

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