"We've developed the enabling technologies to create upper-extremity prosthetics that are more natural in appearance and use, a truly revolutionary advancement in prosthetics," said APL's Michael McLoughlin, the program manager. "Now, in Phase 3, we are ready to test it with humans to demonstrate that the system can be operated with a patient's thoughts and that it can provide that patient with sensory feedback, restoring the sensation of touch."As I said in 2007...
The team will develop implantable micro-arrays used to record brain signals and stimulate the brain. They will also conduct experiments and clinical trials to demonstrate the ability to use implantable neural interfaces safely and effectively to control a prosthesis, and optimize arm control and sensory feedback algorithms that enable dexterous manipulation through the use of a neuro-prosthetic limb.
"We will be working very closely with the University of Pittsburgh and the California Institute of Technology for their experience in brain computer interfaces, the University of Chicago for their expertise in sensory perception, the University of Utah for its capabilities in developing implantable devices suitable for interfacing with the human brain, and HDT Engineered Technologies for their skill in building prosthetic limb systems," McLoughlin said.
Both Pittsburgh and CalTech have conducted research using chips with hair-like electrodes to record neurological signatures in the brain. Last year, in an independent effort, Pittsburgh showed that a pair of macaque monkeys with tiny chips implanted in their brains could operate a robotic arm just by thinking about it. Wires carried the signals through the skull, and then computer software converted these signals into robotic arm movements.
Within the year, the APL-led team will initiate testing with a high spinal cord injury patient. "Initially, we have targeted the quadriplegic patient population because they have the most to gain," McLoughlin explained. "Unlike most amputee patients who have other options in terms of care and independence, these patients are totally dependent on others for most things. There is no alternative. Their lives will be truly transformed by this advancement."
The difficult thing is going to be decoding the sensory data from parts of the body below the break. But simple control of a prosthetic, that is at worst only a decade away.I expect this to be out of the Labs and into series production by about 2015.