FDA Approves Star Wars-Esque Bionic Arm

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Star Wars enthralled a generation of moviegoers who imagined the future would just look like that galaxy far, far away. Of course, intergalactic warfare hasn't yet become a reality, but, in at least one area, we're making some serious progress towards making Star Wars dreams come true. A new prosthetic arm approved this week by the FDA marks a major step forward for amputees, offering the sort of mobility and precision previously only seen in George Lucas movies — and, of course, Terminator.

The DEKA limb was invented by Dean Kamen, an entrepreneur perhaps best known for thinking up the Segway. Funded in part by the Department of Defense and nicknamed "Luke" after Luke Skywalker's bionic arm, the device uses electrodes to detect muscle contractions. These electrodes connect to a computer inside the prosthesis, which processes the electric signals into movements. The result is an artificial limb that can essentially "read" its wearer's mind.

The device is also one of the first to be able to handle multiple movements at one time, making it much more effective at mimicking normal fine-motor function. The DEKA limb is pretty adept at a number of fairly sophisticated tasks; as Bloomberg News reports, users can drink from a cup of water, use zippers and combs, and pick up objects as small as a credit card or a grape. And, the device is modifiable, making it a great option for most amputees regardless of the degree of limb loss they've suffered.

The project is part of a massive effort by the DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs to fund new research and innovation in prosthesis, in hopes of making life easer for all amputees. Watch the video above to see "Luke" in action — it's actually kind of incredible. (The Atlantic)