- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Pentagon’s research arm tasked with developing breakthrough technologies has unveiled a mind-controlled prosthesis one might see in a science-fiction movie.

Reporters at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Technology Expo in Washington, D.C., were awed by the Modular Prosthetic Limb’s capabilities. Johnny Matheny of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab demonstrated the robotic arm for anyone who came to DARPA’s booth.

“I can sit here and curl a 45-pound dumbbell all day long until the battery runs dead. A soldier […] with those big old guns? I can match him,” Matheny told Tech Insider on Wednesday. 

Mr. Matheny also shook hands with Gizmodo’s Maddie Stone, prompting her to write an article titled, “DARPA’s mind-controlled arm will make you wish you were a cyborg.”

“This thing has as good a range of motion as a natural hand,” Mr. Matheny told Ms. Stone. “The only thing it can’t do is [the “Star Trek”] Vulcan V.”

Ms. Stone studied Mr. Matheny’s Modular Prosthetic Limb and concluded it was fair to call him a “bona fide cyborg — one of the most advanced in the world” based on its dexterity and strength.

Justin C. Sanchez, DARPA director of biological technologies, spoke at length with both websites about the technology.

“Some our our service members come back [from] serving their country with tremendous injuries. We say, ‘Can we repay the debt back to them by developing technologies that give them a better quality of life?” Mr. Sanchez told Tech Insider. “A great example of that is, let’s say you lost a limb in service of the country. Could we give you a prosthetic arm that gives you near-natural control very much like your own arm?”

Mr. Sanchez said DARPA has worked with Mr. Matheny since 2011 “to capture the brain’s intent” and find a way to turn it into natural motion. The process involved reassigning certain nerves and directly attaching a prosthetic device to the bone of Mr. Matheny’s upper arm. He also wears a Myo armband that translates electrical signals sent to his muscles before transmitting instructions to a computer inside the prosthetic arm.

DARPA told Gizmodo that it will eventually be able to give recipients prosthetic limbs that do not require wearing bothersome bands. Instead, technology will simply be implanted within the body.

The website said that early testing of such devices has been shown to “dramatically reduce the phantom limb pain experienced by many amputees” and restore a sense of touch.

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