A robotic arm with a neural interface that allows the user to experience touch has been developed by the University of Pittsburgh and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The Revolutionizing Prosthetics
program since 2006 has been developing advanced upper-limb prosthetics. Their first was the Gen-3 Arm System by DEKA Integrated Solutions Corporation, submitted for 510(k) in 2012. The subject for the test of the touch interface, Nathan, has been a quadriplegic from the chest down since 2004. He permitted four microelectrode arrays, each about half the size of a shirt button, to be placed in his brain: two in the motor cortex and two in the sensory cortex regions that correspond to feeling in his fingers and palm. Wires run from the arrays to the robotic arm, which has torque sensors that detect when pressure is applied to its fingers. These physical “sensations” are converted into electrical signals back to the arrays in Nathan’s brain so that he has the sensation of feeling and touch. The sensation of touch in the bionic arm is near 100 percent natural and accurate. This research has great potential both for prosthetics and for other neurological conditions. Armed With Science. Video