There are some amazing improvements to prosthetic limbs that can change many peoples lives. It is interesting to see the integration of more electronics, making prosthetic limbs basically robots that can communicate with people. This creates a blurred boundary between wearable robots in terms of exoskeletons and literally robots that are being worn. I think the future of this kind of work will help the humanoid robotic community in general as there can be new data as to how robots can move and function in the real world by having them physically controlled by people.
DARPA’s no stranger to bionic limb research, however two new projects under the agency’s RE-NET program focus on improving amputees’ link to their prosthetics. RE-NET aims to develop the technology that will connect artificial limbs to existing nerves and muscles. Once that’s achieved, users will be able feel with the prosthetic as well as move it as they would a real arm or leg, unlike another project focused on one-way control. Head past the break to watch videos documenting the clinical trials of both studies — the arms in the clips aren’t quite the life-like limbs DARPA promised back in 2006, but they sure are mighty impressive.
In this video a former army officer injured in Iraq demonstrates how well an artificial arm moves when connected to one’s muscles. This particular technology is being developed by researchers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.