Progress continues on the creation of robotic arms that the user can control using his or her mind, according to Tech Insider. These robotic limbs may someday become widely available for people with no or limited use of their arms due to paralysis, amputation or other reason. This could potentially increase their independence and improve their quality of life.
In the latest possible breakthrough, researchers at DARPA, a Defense Department agency, say that a subject was able to “feel” pressure on a robot arm’s fingers. If true, this would be an important step toward replicating the human arm.
DARPA says it had two subjects, a woman and a man, test its arm. They each underwent brain surgery to have micro-electrode arrays implanted in their brains, so that they could directly interact with the robotic prosthetic.
After the operation the female subject was able to move the arm with her thoughts, in real time, through a computer. DARPA researchers then blindfolded the male subject to test if he could detect someone else touching the hand. When he was able to do so, “it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” one of the DARPA scientists said.
As with most of this robotic prosthetic technology, DARPA’s arm is still in its early stages, Tech Insider says. It could be years, if not decades, before someone develops robot limbs that are safe and reliable enough for the public.
Until then, people with lost or limited use of limbs may struggle to care for themselves, and be unable to work.