Revolutionary Prosthetic Arm Enters its Next Phase

Revolutionary Prosthetic Arm Enters its Next Phase image
July 21, 2015 | Source: Kevin McCaney, Defense Systems

Having funded the development of the first prosthetic arm that can function in a way close to the real thing, military researchers are now getting behind efforts to help it reach a wide number of users.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded a contract worth just less than $7 million to the robotic arm’s developer, DEKA Innovative Solutions Corp., that ultimately aims to improve the DEKA Arm System’s functions and ensure that the “system can accommodate the broadest user community possible,” according to the contract award announcement.

DEKA—which is led by Segway inventor Dean Kamen—developed the arm over about eight years with $40 million in funding from DARPA, which started its Revolutionizing Prosthetics program in 2006 to assist service members who had lost limbs, particularly in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The arm responds to muscle contractions and its wrist and fingers can perform six types of grips; the arm itself can perform 10 different movements. It’s been shown to be able to handle everything from a grape to a power tool.