Electric arm controlled by mind18th May 2010
In 2006, a man named Christian Kandlbauer was electrocuted at work.
The high voltage of the accident caused him to lose the use of both of his arms.
However, Kandlbauer now uses a mind-controlled left arm to do everything.
With the use of the mind-controlled arm, he has since returned to his former workplace, and can drive, dress himself, and do many other things.
The arm was developed by Otto Bock Healthcare, a medical device company that plans to mass-market mind-controlled limbs very soon.
The device itself involves a technique known as targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR).
The transplanted nerves used in TMR take six hours to transplant into the arms.
The implanted chest muscle nerves, which receive the brain's electrical signals, boost the resultant electrical signal.
The amplified signal is picked up by conventional electrodes, and sent to an on-board computer within the arm, where they get translated into movement.
Since the electricity in the body's nerve impulses moves so quickly, the only limit on the process is the computer processing time that happens within the arm itself.
Because quick processing time is now such a cheap commodity that smart phones have permeated all levels of society in developed countries, the company that made Kandlbauer's arm is now ready to mass-market its nerve-signal technology.
One of the fingers in Kandlbauer's robotic arm has a touch sensation.
However, what the arm technology currently lacks is anything resembling surface nerves, which would allow people who lose the use of their limbs to regain their sense of touch.
Hubert Egger, head of research and development for the German company's arm project, worked four years to develop the technology.
In total, the research that developed the technology cost several million pounds.
Egger said that patients in the UK would soon be able to benefit from the new technology.
He said that Kandlbauer was the first patient in Europe to use a mind-controlled prosthetic.
Matthew Nagle, a 25-year-old from the US, is paralysed from the neck down.
Nagle was able to use the arm to send e-mails, use a remote control, and perform basic feats of movement.
Ernie Stables of the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association (Blesma) said he believed the expense of the arm would prove a barrier to widespread uptake.
He said that he believed it was a significant technological advance, and that people would eventually use it if it became affordable.
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