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Robot arm controlled by muscle signals successfully implanted in humans

Advanced Prosthetics: Welcome to the Future

"We are the Borg. They will be assimilated! "Anyone familiar with Star Trek or similar science fiction stories knows that man-machine hybrid creatures are a popular theme in the genre. That such a thing is also possible in reality was demonstrated recently by an international research team. They successfully implanted robotic arms as prostheses to volunteers of a study. The arms are controlled by the biosignals emanating from the muscles of the amputation stumps.

An international research group led by Oskar Aszmann from the Medical University of Vienna took human-machine interaction to a new level. For the first time ever, they implanted a robotic arm on a human being who can read the amputation site's biosignals and turn them into movements. Three participants received a fully functioning robotic arm as a replacement for their missing limbs as part of a study. The results were recently presented in the journal "Science Robotics."

 A human hand and a robotic hand touch each other.
Fully functional robotic prostheses can replace lost limbs in the future. An international research team with the participation of MedUni Vienna proved that this works. (Image: Alexander Limbach / fotolia.com)

Advanced human-machine interaction is no longer fiction

Controlling machines with human biosignals is no longer a science fiction story. Even today, there are numerous examples of how such communication can succeed. Machines can interpret activities of the brain, muscles or eyes to control certain processes. For example, the mouse pointer of a computer can be manipulated with the movements of the eye thanks to state-of-the-art technology.

Replacing lost limbs with robotic prostheses

International researchers at three participants in a recent study showed how such interactions can be used in the future. The three male patients lost an arm as a result of an accident. The research group replaced the missing limbs with robotic arms that can be controlled via the muscle signals from the stumps. The biosignals from the muscles are transmitted wirelessly to the prosthesis where they are mechanically converted into the desired movement.

Intuitive Control by Muscle Signals

In order to make this possible, the researchers implanted special sensors into the amputation stump. These sensors read the muscle signals that sufferers normally use to move their arms. The read signals are then transmitted wirelessly to the arm, which performs the corresponding movement. In this way, the arm can be intuitively controlled by the user. To ensure the performance of the arm, it can be wirelessly charged by magnetic coils in the prosthesis shaft.

Research is not only relevant to prostheses

The research group emphasizes that systems with wireless transmission of biosignals are not only suitable for modern prosthetics , Theoretically, this technique can be applied to many other sectors of biotechnology. So it is quite conceivable that machines in the future with pure thought force (or brain waves) can be controlled. (vb)


graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Medical University of Vienna: Prosthetics: For the first time sensors for wireless muscle signal transmission after nerve transfer implanted (call: 18.07 .2019), meduniwien.ac.at
  • Salminger, S. / Sturma, A. / Hofer, C. / et al .: Long-term implant of intramuscular sensors and nerve transfer for wireless control of robotic arms in above-elbow amputees , Science Robotics, 2019, robotics.sciencemag.org

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