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VR Interfaces: Neuro-Controlled Bionic Arm


Overview of Neuro-Controlled Bionic Arm
A product of neuroprosthetic work, the Neuro-Controlled Bionic Arm, product of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, is the first artificial limb to tap directly into the nervous system, allowing it to be moved by unconscious thought, exactly the same as the natural, original arm.

This bionic arm can pick up objects as fragile as glass, or as strong as a metal rod, and works via electrodes implanted into the skin to join up with the residual nerve endings of the old, organic arm. These intercept the limb's residual nerve firings and feed them to a computer embedded in the forearm, which then commands six motors to move the device's shoulder, elbow and hand in unison. Thanks to hand sensors, the wearer can even gauge pressure and fine-tune grip.

Weighing just twelve pounds ? 5.5kg, the entire limb is fairly lightweight, although considerable bracing is still required as it cannot yet bolt successfully into the existing bone structure.

The image above is from the prototype, fitted to amputee Jesse Sullivan. The arm does suffer from slow speed and durability issues. However, progress is being swiftly made, and a commercial version is expected to be ready by 2008.

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