Dean "Segway" Kamen's prosthetic "Luke" arm (as in Luke Skywalker) is ready for clinical trials. It's now up to DARPA, who funded the project through the Revolutionizing Prosthetics contract, to determine whether to foot the bill for human testing, and the FDA to approve the trials. The new issue of IEEE Spectrum has a feature on the ready-to-wear Luke arm. From the article:
When DARPA director Tony Tether and Revolutionizing Prosthetics program manager Colonel Geoffrey Ling approached him in 2005, Kamen says he thought they were crazy–“in the good kind of way,” he says. There was no financial incentive to create a next-generation prosthetic arm. The research and development costs were enormous. Unless funded by DARPA, no private company would take such a risk for such a comparatively small market (in the Americas, about 6000 people require arm prostheses each year). Kamen spent a few weeks traveling around the country interviewing patients, doctors, and researchers to get an idea of the current technology–and soon saw the deficit in available arm prosthetics. He was swayed by the discrepancy between the current state of leg prostheses and that of arm prostheses. “Prosthetic legs are in the 21st century,” he says. “With prosthetic arms, we’re in the Flintstones.”
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