The first robotic prosthesis controlled by the wearer's mind is ready to hit the European market.
In 2006, Christian Kandlbauerwas electrocuted by 20,000 volts. The accident resulted in Kandlebauer losing both of his arms. However, today, Christian can dress himself, drive, and do a multitude of other things that otherwise wouldn't be possible without his special combination of regular and mind-controlled robotic prosthesis. Christian's situation is unique in that, while his right arm is a regular prosthetic limb, his left is a robotic arm which he controls with his mind.
The BBC reports that Christian is the first man to drive a car with a mind-controlled prosthetic but soon, there could be hundreds of people just like Christian. According to the Beeb, experts at Otto Bock Healthcare, the medical technology company responsible for developing the mind-controlled arm, say the arm is almost ready for prime time.
Using the prosthesis involves a new technique known as targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR). TMR calls for nerves that once controlled a lost limb to be used to control the prosthesis, which means they need to be transplanted to the chest muscles in a six-hour operation. The nerves in the chest muscles receive electrical impulses from the brain and the muscles act like a booster, amplifying the signal. This signal is picked up by electrodes on the surface of the chest and interpreted by a micro-computer that controls the arm. The result is real-time movement in response to Christian's thoughts.
Otto Bock Healthcare this week announced that after four years of testing with Christian, the arm is ready for sale. Full details of how the technology works have yet to be released but Dr. Hubert Egger, head of research and development of the project, will be publishing technical and surgical guidelines with his team.
*Image via BBC