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The dream of a prosthetic limb that touches and feels like a natural limb, is still some ways away. A natural arm or leg processes sensory data at a rate we just do not have the bandwidth to recreate, much less tie into the human nervous system. That said however, significant progress has already been made, and development continues at a pace, which is rapidly accelerating.
2003: Virtual limbs, physical brain - finally a possibility
In a pioneering experiment, control chips were grafted into the nervous systems of two monkeys, who were then able to demonstrate controlling virtual limbs simply with their thoughts. The research is one of the first steps to being able to control a virtual body, in just the same way as a physical one.
2004: Advent of the Robotic Monkeys
University of Pittsburgh, Andrew Schwartz's neurobiology lab. A monkey, pinned to a bed, unable to move even a muscle, is able to flex its arms, and do with it almost as it pleases. Only thing is, the arm's not physically connected, its being moved by the monkey's thought alone.
2006: First woman fitted with bionic arm
Ex-Marine Claudia Mitchell lost her arm in a motorcycle accident two years ago. Since then, she struggled with life with one arm. After a multitude of simple, unresponsive prosthetics, she becomes the first woman to receive a bionic arm. Drawing on the plethora of BMI research over the past decade, the new arm bends and flexes, and responds to subconscious nerve impulses just like an organic arm.
2007: First woman fitted with bionic, becomes first with a Haptic arm
The art of prosthetics has moved forwards once more, and Claudia has now become the first woman to be fitted with an artificial arm ? same arm ? that returns a sense of touch to her nervous system.