The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has provided first production versions of the Mobius Bionics LUKE arm to U.S. war veterans with upper-limb loss. The prosthetic system-LUKE stands for Life Under Kinetic Evolution and is a reference to the prosthetic arm Luke Skywalker was given in Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back-was developed under DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics (RP) program by the company that is now known as DEKA Integrated Solutions, Manchester, New Hampshire. 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.
Justin Sanchez, PhD, director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, delivered the first two LUKE arms from Mobius Bionics’ new production line on December 22. This event marked the completion of DARPA’s research effort and its transition into a commercial enterprise. As part of that transition process, DARPA is collaborating with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), Bethesda, Maryland, to make the advanced prosthesis available to service members and veterans who are rehabilitating after suffering upper-limb loss.
“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.”
DARPA launched the RP program with the goal of gaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for an advanced electromechanical prosthetic upper limb with near-natural control that enhances independence and improves quality of life for people with upper-limb loss. Less than eight years after the effort was launched, that goal became a reality.
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 arms.
Editor’s note: This story was adapted from materials provided by DARPA.