Tuesday, January 08, 2008

DARPA's Revolutionary Prosthetics Program

I love DARPA.

Double amputee Jesse Sullivan demonstrated a current prototype of the bionic arm at the DARPATech conference in August. Sullivan can stack plastic cups in a pyramid and pull a credit card out of his pocket—seemingly simple tasks that require very complicated feedback among nerve endings in the skin, neurons in the brain, and muscles. The mechanical-looking prototype arm currently has about 80 individual silicon-based sensors on the fingertips to give feedback on touch, temperature, and limb position.

The next step is the addition of an artifical skin containing carbon-nanotube based sensors that interface directly to the brain, allowing the limb to feel, and providing such delicate control that the user can even type! I'm amazed at how quickly we are progressing on man/machine interfacing. Maybe my transhumanist friends are on the right track.

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