LUKE Arm Prostheses Available for Wounded Warriors

Bethesda, MD — The recent holiday season brought high-tech offerings for U.S. war veterans in the form of sophisticated bionic arms developed under the direction of DARPA.

In a December ceremony at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), Justin Sanchez, Director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, delivered the first two advanced “LUKE” arms from a new production line. As part of their transition into commercial enterprise, DARPA is collaborating with WRNMMC to make the advanced prostheses available to service members and veterans who are rehabilitating after suffering upper-limb loss.

The limbs are being manufactured by Mobius Bionics LLC of Manchester, NH, a company created to market the technology developed by DEKA Integrated Solutions Corp., also of Manchester, under DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program.

The “LUKE” system — which stands for Life Under Kinetic Evolution, but is also a nod to the robotic hand Luke Skywalker receives in the Star Wars Episode V — enables extremely dexterous arm and hand movement with grip force feedback through a simple, intuitive control system. The modular, battery-powered limb is of near-natural size and weight. It features a hand that has six user-selectable grips and an arm that allows for simultaneous control of multiple joints using a variety of inputs, including wireless signals generated by innovative sensors worn on the user’s feet.

“The commercial production and availability of these remarkable arms for patients marks a major milestone in the RP program and, most importantly, an opportunity for our wounded warriors to enjoy a major enhancement in their quality of life,” Sanchez said. “And we are not stopping here. In addition to supporting the initial production of these near-natural prostheses, the RP program is continuing to make huge strides in the restoration of upper arm control. Ultimately we envision these limbs providing even greater dexterity and highly refined sensory experiences by connecting them directly to users’ peripheral and central nervous systems.”

Under a recently finalized agreement between DARPA and WRNMMC, DARPA will transfer LUKE arms from an initial-production run to the medical center for prescription to patients yet to be selected. Mobius Bionics will train the WRNMMC staff on fitting the prostheses as well as provide service and support of the arm. Link

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