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"It almost moved me to tears"



Photo by Dan Hixson / University of Utah College of Engineering

Thanks to a groundbreaking new technological achievement, amputee Keven Walgamott had a good "feel" for picking up an egg with his new robot arm without crushing it. [19659003] What seems easy to almost everyone else can be more of a Herculean task for Walgamott, who lost his left hand and part of his arm 17 years ago in an electrical accident. When he picked up the egg, he tested the prototype of a high-tech prosthetic arm with fingers that can not only move, but also move his mind – thanks to a biomedical engineering team at the University of Utah, he "felt" the egg well enough for his brain to tell the prosthetic hand that it should not be pressed too hard.

This is because the team led by Gregory Clark, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Utah, found a way for the LUKE arm "(so named after the robotic hand, the Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back has received) to mimic the way a human hand feels objects by sending the appropriate signals to the brain.

Their findings were published in a new article co-authored by medical engineering graduate Jacob George and other colleagues in the latest issue of Science Robotics .

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"We have the way we look at this information send the brain, modified so that they correspond to the human body. By adapting to the human body, we have seen improved benefits, "says George. "We give biologically more realistic signals."

This means that an amputee who wears the prosthetic arm can feel the touch of something soft or hard, understands exactly how to pick it up, and perform delicate tasks that would otherwise be impossible. A standard prosthesis with metal hooks or – claws for the hands.

"It almost made me cry," says Walgamott about the first use of the LUKE arm during clinical trials in 2017. "It was really amazing. I never thought that I could feel in this hand again.

Keven Walgamott and the Luke Arm – Photo of the University of Utah's Neuronal Interfaces Center

Walgamott, a West Valley City, Utah estate agent, and one of seven volunteers at the University of Utah, was able to To pick grapes without crushing them, to pick up an egg without crushing it, and to hold the hand of his wife with a feeling similar to that of a working person.

"One of the first things he wanted to do was put on his wedding ring. It's hard to do with one hand, "says Clark. "It was very moving."

How these things are achieved is achieved through a complex set of mathematical calculations and models.

LOOK : Dad designs a floating drone that could prevent dozens of potential drownings [19659003] The LUKE arm has been in development for some 15 years. The arm itself consists mainly of metal motors and parts with a clear silicone skin over the hand. It is powered by an external battery and connected to a computer.

Meanwhile, the University of Utah team has developed a system that allows the prosthetic arm to scan the wearer's nerves, which are like biological wires that send signals to the computer arm to move. This is due to an invention called the Utah Slanted Electrode Array. The array consists of 100 microelectrodes and wires that are implanted into the amputee's nerves in the forearm and connected to a computer outside the body. The array interprets the signals of the remaining arm nerves and the computer translates them into digital signals that instruct the arm to move.

But it works the other way around too. To perform tasks such as taking objects, not only does the brain of the hand have to say that it should move. The prosthetic hand also needs to learn how to 'feel' the object in order to know how much pressure you have to exert, because you can not find that out just by looking at it.

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First, the prosthetic arm has sensors in the hand that send signals to the nerves through the array to deliver Imitate feeling that the hand gets while gripping objects. Equally important, however, is how these signals are sent. It's about understanding how your brain deals with information transitions when it touches for the first time. Upon the first contact with an object, the nerves of the brain are excited by a pulse impulse, which then tapers. Rebuilding this was a big step.

"It's a big deal to cause a stir, but the way you send this information is also crucial. If you make them biologically more realistic, the brain will understand them better and the performance of that sensation will be better too, "says Clark.

To achieve this, Clark's team used mathematical calculations along with recorded impulses from the arm of a primate to provide an approximate model of how humans receive these different signal patterns. This model was then implemented in the LUKE arm system.

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A prototype of the LUKE arm with sense of touch, the entire team is already developing a version that is completely portable and does not need to be connected to a computer outside the body. Instead, everything would be connected wirelessly, giving the carrier complete freedom.

Clark says the Utah Slanted Electrode Array can also send signals to the brain that involve more than just the sense of touch such as pain and temperature. Paper deals mainly with touch. And while her work currently only affects amputees who have lost their extremities below the elbow, where the muscles are to move the hand, Clark could also transfer his research to those who have lost their arms above the elbow.

Clark hopes that by 2020 or 2021, three test subjects will be able to take the arm home for use, if approved by the federal agency] the arm in action in the video below)

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