This week our society got a little closer to the world of Star Wars, as a result of the DEKA project and inventor Dean Kamen. After eight years of development and testing, the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. (and presumably soon other regulators around the world) have approved the first prosthetic arm that can be controlled entirely by signals from the brain. 

This project was funded by DARPA (and therefore the Pentagon) as a means of aiding veterans and other amputees to regain usage of lost limbs. (As an aside, the arm is also known as LUKE after the Star Wars hero who used a robotic hand after having his own severed in a lightsaber duel). The DEKA arm is so precise that it has been demonstrated performing tasks such as working a zipper and moving a fragile egg without cracking it - both of which are difficult if not impossible with existing prosthetic arms and hands.

Control is maintained using electromyogram electrodes, which function by detecting tiny electrical signals generated by the muscles near the arm. By amplifying these signals and feeding them into motors and servos, the user's brain effectively controls the artificial arm.

The arm was developed by DEKA Integrated Solutions in Manchester, New Hampshire, and receiving FDA approval now allows the DEKA to be sold in the US. And no doubt many amputees will be grateful for this amazing new invention, and all that it will allow them to do.

Note: This article was originally written and published one week ago, but was inadvertently erased during a server issue.