A First: Amputee Controlling Two Prosthetic Arms

amputee controlling two prosthetic

First amputee controlling two prosthetic arms, Les Baugh, Image Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

 

A new advance in medical technology. A Colorado man have become the first amputee controlling two prosthetic arms at the same time.

In the last couple of years there have been many advances with prosthetic limbs. Earlier this year I mentioned one such advance, an extremely precise way amputees managed to control an artificial limb to eat a grape and using it for other fine motor skills. Now Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory report a new engineering advance, a double amputee controlling two prosthetic arms at the same time!

First Amputee Controlling Two Prosthetic Arms Simultaneously

The arms called modular prosthetic limbs (MBL) use what is called targeted muscle re-innervation. Connecting nerves in that used to control the arms.

“It’s a relatively new surgical procedure that reassigns nerves that once controlled the arm and the hand. By reassigning existing nerves, we can make it possible for people who have had upper-arm amputations to control their prosthetic devices by merely thinking about the action they want to perform.” explains John Hopkins Trauma Surgeon Albert Chi

After this surgery the patient, Les Baugh, trained on the MBL, fine tuning the pattern recognition system for the prosthetic arms. Baugh was also fitted for a custom socket so the synthetic arms could be attached to his body. As all the pieces were being fit together Baugh was given training in a virtual environment featuring the same “robot” arms, learning how to think to control the prosthesis. In total 10 days of training were required for Baugh to learn to control the modular arms, still a short time for such advanced prosthesis.

When it came to crunch time Baugh managed to move delicate objects like empty cups from shelves to higher shelves, simulating normal day to day tasks. This test marks the first time two prosthetic arms were controlled at the same time, an advance that’s very encouraging for people with lost limbs.

“I think we are just getting started. It’s like the early days of the Internet. There is just a tremendous amount of potential ahead of us, and we’ve just started down this road. And I think the next five to 10 years are going to bring phenomenal advancement.” – RP Principal Investigator Michael McLoughlin

Researchers also recorded this video describing the advance and showing some of the tests performed by Baugh.

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  • Vulcanator

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