Prosthetic limbs are one of the oldest medical technologies that exist. For as long as people have been losing arms and legs in war and through accidents, people have sought to replace them with man-made replicas. While over the course of the last 100 years, these prostheses have evolved far past a rudimentary hook hand or stump leg, they still are nowhere near as versatile a the original body part.
That is, until now. A research team based at the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, have been working on a revolutionary mind control interface for prosthetic limbs. This new interface is far superior to previous high-tech ways of controlling a prosthetic limb, by allowing a far greater accuracy of movement, and little to no signal interference.
Past interfaces relied on picking up on subtle muscle movements and twitches in order to determine which way a powered prosthetic limb should move, however this was far from ideal. The Swedish team managed to build a much more advanced system whereby they created a fully ‘osseointegrated’ prosthesis controller. This controller, exists as a titanium plate which sites over the shoulder bone, and provides an way of interfacing with the human nervous system through neuromuscular electrodes.
In an entry in the journal Science Translated Medicine they explain:
We developed a percutaneous osseointegrated (bone-anchored) interface that allows for permanent and unlimited bidirectional communication with the human body. With this interface, an artificial limb can be chronically driven by implanted electrodes in the peripheral nerves and muscles of an amputee, outside of controlled environments and during activities of daily living, thus reducing disability and improving quality of life.
The system was surgically implanted on a test patient called ‘Magnus’, who had lost his arm a decade earlier. Watch the difference between him using an arm with this new mind control technology, as compared to the more rudimentary muscular control system in the video below.
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