Prosthetic arm “LUKE” allows amputees to handle delicate objects – UTAH University

The LUKE robotic arm allows amputee Keven Walgamott, who lost his left hand, to pick grapes without crushing them and hold an egg without cracking it, in a demonstration. The robotic hand which is controlled by thought has enabled an amputee to touch and feel again.

Delicate objects such as eggs or grapes can be handled with LUKE, the prosthetic arm.

Owing to a biomedical engineering team at the University of Utah, he “felt” the egg quite well so his brain could tell the prosthetic hand not to grasp too tightly.

According to Keven Walgamott, who lost his left hand and part of his arm in an electrical accident 17 years ago “It almost put me to tears.”

Their findings were reported in a new paper co-authored by Utah’s biomedical engineering doctoral student Jacob George, former doctoral student David Kluger, Dr Gregory Clark, and other colleagues in the recent edition of the journal Science Robotics.

That means an amputee with the prosthetic arm would be able to sense the touch of something hard or soft, understand better how to pick it up and carry out delicate functions that would otherwise be unmanageable with a regular prosthetic with metal claws or hooks for hands.

Meanwhile, the Utah team has been designing a system that enables the robotic arm to tap into the wearer’s nerves, which are like biological wires that convey signals to the arm to move.

To realize that, Dr Gregory Clark’s team used mathematical calculations together with recorded impulses from a primate’s arm to develop an approximate model of how humans receive these various signal patterns.

Besides developing a prototype of the the LUKE Arm having a sense of touch, the entire team is already creating a version that is fully portable and does not have to be wired to a computer outside the body.

Dr Gregory Clark says the Utah Slanted Electrode Array can also transmit signals to the brain for more than just the sense of touch, such as temperature and pain, though the paper mainly addresses touch.

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