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Robotics Science

Huge Leap Forward In Robotic Limb Replacement 153

BlueshiftVFX sends us to Wired for some video of the impressive, mind-controlled prosthetic robot arm invented by Dean Kamen. "Kamen's arm, dubbed 'Luke' (after Skywalker, I assume), is an incredibly sophisticated bit of engineering that's lightyears ahead of the clamping 'claws' that many amputees are forced to use today. The arm is fully articulated, giving the user the same degrees of movement as a natural arm, and is sensitive enough to pick up a piece of paper, a wineglass, or even a grape without mishap."
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Huge Leap Forward In Robotic Limb Replacement

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  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @06:06PM (#23620577)
    How long until the government mandates that these must have HRM on them (Human Rights Management) which would make it impossible to do certain "illegal" things. For example if it doesn't think you are 21 you can't pick up a beer bottle or a wine glass, it wouldn't let you pull a trigger of a gun, nor wield a knife defensively. Now, this technology is still 25-75 years off before it could actually be used, but could it be that in 150 years you would have to have your normal arms either amputated or modified to support Human Rights Management?
  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @06:08PM (#23620599)
    Why only have an elbow and wrist and five fingers? Why not make an articulated arm that has more 'elbow' joints and two opposing digits (read: thumbs). If the brain isn't used to controlling 6 finger/digits, could it learn the task? Surely a wrist that could rotate 180degrees in either direction would be better than our current design.

  • Re::-( Insurance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @06:13PM (#23620643)

    I can't tell you how excited I would be if any insurance company on the planet would actually pay for this. I have a friend who lost his left arm fighting in the name of our country. So far three different insurance carriers have all denied him any kind of advanced prosthetic. It's sad...
    Are you in the US? If he was in the military, why is he dealing with insurance carriers at all?

    And are you saying he has triple coverage through three different companies?

  • by s4m7 ( 519684 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @06:19PM (#23620675) Homepage
    I've wondered about this: if the technology improved to the point where you could feel all the sensations with a prosthetic arm as with your original arm, but the materials were stronger, faster and more flexible, why not replace them voluntarily?
  • by markk ( 35828 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @06:29PM (#23620767)
    So can this be adapted with some work to control real limbs of quadraplegics and paraplegics? Seems like something that could be done with some kind of muscle or nerve stimulation. One could imagine a direct stimulation of nerves in the arm based on this kind of signals. A person could actually "teach" the system to get some kind of use of limbs - even if there is no feeling.
  • Re::-( Insurance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mazarin5 ( 309432 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @06:34PM (#23620793) Journal
    Hell, my father is just now getting treatment for problems caused by his stint in Vietnam!
  • Mecha on the moon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zarf ( 5735 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @06:53PM (#23620927) Journal
    Am I the only one that sees this as an exciting new way to control giant robots and Mecha? One of the demo videos shows an engineer who has not lost an arm controlling the device as a third arm. That could mean the creation of a real-life Doctor Octopus ... or even a way to control real life Mecha or telerobotic space exploration systems for mining the moon!
  • by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @07:02PM (#23620993) Journal
    I'm sure most people would just want their old arm back.

    But honestly? If I'm getting an artificial body part I want an upgrade. Artificial arms need "Inspector Gadget" type tools built into them. artificial legs need built-in roller blades or "kangaroo boot" springs. Artificial eyes need video-in jacks, zoom and swappable IR vision filters.

    I'm not sure I'd have a perfectly good body part removed for one - especially at this stage in tech - but if anything happens and I'm getting it anyway...
  • by Zarf ( 5735 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @07:08PM (#23621047) Journal

    I imagine it's much harder than you may think to pick up a control scheme for a part of your body that's not only never existed on your body, but never existed in the history of your species.

    But, more to the point, I think they ought to focus on the basics before adding on extra fingers and elbows ;)
    Actually, I'd like to test this hypothesis. I'll bet we'll be shocked to find out that it's actually easy for people who are young enough. I know, that's counter-intuitive, but I suspect that the reason there is a yawning chasm between generations and their use of technology is not that old folks are Luddites but that some folks can't adapt to the mental augmentation that is the exo-cortex of the Internet.

    Notice that we don't see this chasm in older baby-boomers. I think that means we won't see another gaping technology chasm between generations. The computers are here now and brains are adapting to them. Other threads on slashdot have discussed the idea that computer programs become mental extensions just as tools become extensions of people's bodies. Stories of ancient knights speak of warriors fighting until they could not tell their arms from their swords.

    So I'd bet that using that "mental extension into the tool" effect you really could find ways to add on novel new cybernetic body-parts and that the brains of mammals are actually adaptive enough to deal with it. I think this will be true because of the structure of mammal brains and its ability to re-wire itself.

    After all don't you wince when you hit something in your car? Some people even exclaim "ouch" as if they were themselves hurt. I suspect it's an artifact of being able to use tools that enables us to tack on a tool as a "temporary body part"
  • by Rangsk ( 681047 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @07:09PM (#23621061)
    This reminds me of the Star Trek: TNG episode, "The Measure of a Man"

    Quote taken from: []

    Capt. Picard: Data, I understand your objections. But I have to consider Star Fleet's interests. What if Commander Maddox is correct - there is a possibility that many more beings like yourself can be constructed?
    Lt. Commander Data: Sir, Lieutenant La Forge's eyes are far superior to human biological eyes, true?
    Capt. Picard: Mm-hmm.
    Lt. Commander Data: Then why are not all human officers required to have their eyes replaced with cybernetic implants?
    [Picard considers this, pauses, then looks away from Data]
    Lt. Commander Data: I see. It is precisely because I am *not* human.
  • by bfl ( 619363 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @08:18PM (#23621575)
    Invented by Dean Kaman is a bit of an exaggeration. The arm is the result of a DARPA project overseen by Deka, and involving a laundry list of partners including the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and the University of New Brunswick. See here [] for the UNB page about the project.
  • by dlevitan ( 132062 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @08:28PM (#23621641)

    I've wondered about this: if the technology improved to the point where you could feel all the sensations with a prosthetic arm as with your original arm, but the materials were stronger, faster and more flexible, why not replace them voluntarily?
    I think a good reason would be power requirements. All prosthetics I believe require batteries. I suppose you could have enough batteries that you could just charge your arms and legs overnight. But, quite frankly, I feel powerless enough when I can't see anything when I first wake up. Not having any arms would be even worse.

    If anything, I think that concentrating on either exoskeletons (as has been reported in recent articles) or maybe on strengthening the body itself with implants would be much more productive and useful. Maybe there would be a way to augment the body's muscles to make them stronger, for example. However, I doubt this will happen anytime soon.
  • (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pattipace ( 1300117 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @09:16PM (#23621909)
    Is the normal weight of the missing limb factored into the design? I am a 50 year old disabled vet and most of the vets I see are only comfortable for a period of time with the prosthetic. Since 1991 I have carried the dead weight of my right hand around. The last seven years has also included the dead weight of my right arm and shoulder. My neck and whole spine is bent to the right now. I would feel much better if I knew this new generation of Veterans would get prosthetics that they will be able to keep on using. Is the natural weight of the limb factored into the design? Thanks!
  • by SlashWombat ( 1227578 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @09:58PM (#23622195)
    Really? Could we experiment on you? Of course, we need to remove both your arms first, and leave you that way for a few years before we even begin to attempt to "train" you to use the replacement. Hope your good at holding your bladder, or your going to wet yourself whilst pleading with someone to unzip you, and provide the aiming ...

    Seriously, this thing is amazing. Now all we need is a brain replacement for about 50% of the people who respond with off topic or plainly ridiculous statements in their posts on/to slashdot!

    Maybe news for turds is more apt in a fair percentage of cases?!
  • Re::-( Insurance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lantastik ( 877247 ) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @11:43PM (#23622885)

    I'm a vet and I smell trollage. "name of our country" - WTF?? Branch of service would do for a start.
    Marine Corps, honorably discharged in 1992 after the first war in Iraq. My comment had nothing to do with trolling. It's sad that he had to lose his arm performing a completely selfless act for his country.

    The most he ever received from the VA was a limb with a hook on the end. The three insurance carriers are from his three different employers from then until now.

    What makes you think his insurance carriers are not responsible for a pre-existing condition when his prosthetic needs replaced or is damaged? Sure they replace it, but not with anything worth a damn.
  • by IdeaMan ( 216340 ) on Monday June 02, 2008 @01:26PM (#23628821) Homepage Journal
    I took robotics in college.

    The human arm is an absolute marvel of engineering. The number of degrees of freedom, the range of motion, the sensitivity of its sensors, the amount of control it has are phenomenal. When you build an arm that can beat a human arm that I can afford to replace when it wears out (mine repairs itself), please let me know.
    Otherwise I'm in the market for another pair of arms tied to a lower body exoskeleton capable of lifting a couple thousand pounds.

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