On February 22, Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics headquartered in Manchester, New Hampshire, held a news conference with Dean Kamen, president of DEKA Research & Development,to conduct a public demonstration of developments in the LUKE arm prosthetic system. Ron Currier, 63, an Air Force veteran, and Chuck Hildreth, 55, who each have bilateral amputations, demonstrated the prostheses.
Currier and Hildreth were 20 and 18 respectively when they were electrocuted working on high-voltage lines, leading to their amputations. Currier, a former chief of prosthetics at the Manchester VA Medical Center, is the first person to be fitted with two LUKE arms. Hildreth, who has been working with Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics since 2007, was fitted with a LUKE arm in December 2017.
The advancements announced at the demonstration, held in Manchester, included the following: The first ever bilateral amputee fitted with two LUKE arms, the first private fitting of a LUKE arm featuring a fully integrated powered shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand, and the first noninvestigational use of calibrated sensors capable of decoding natural muscle signals, translating the user’s thoughts into precise movements of hand and wrist.
The prosthetic arm system LUKE stands for Life Under Kinetic Evolution and is a reference to the prosthetic arm Luke Skywalker was given in Star Wars. The LUKE arm was developed under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Revolutionizing Prosthetics (RP) program by a company founded by Kamen. The modular, battery-powered limb is of near-natural size and weight. The system is now manufactured by Mobius Bionics in Manchester.
“Technological advancements are critical, but we rely on the tried and true practices of a hands-on approach, listening, and empathy to make sure that the technology is the perfect fit for the person who is relying on it,” said Matthew Albuquerque, CPO, president and founder of Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics.
“The way that machines are integrated with people is as important as the technology itself,” said Kamen. “The expanded use of the LUKE arm through the advancements announced today is very exciting and hopeful news for veteran amputees and for the general amputee population.”
Hildreth said he was amazed at the ingenuity of the new design. “Within a few hours of testing it I could do things I hadn’t been able to do in over 20 years,” he said.