The future of prosthetics is here after researchers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory completed a groundbreaking experiment that gave a double amputee the ability to control his prosthetics using only his mind. Les Baugh, who lost his arms 40 years ago, became the first-ever, bilateral, shoulder-level amputee to wear two Modular Prosthetic Limbs. To control his new robotic arms, Baugh received a pair of neural implants, which give him the necessary control over his new limbs.
Researchers implanted neural controls into Baugh’s head and then recorded the movements of his brain as he moved his muscles. After that, Baugh trained for his new arms by controlling a virtual pair using his mind. Since Baugh’s arms were amputated at the shoulder, a custom torso was also designed to hold the prosthetic arms in place.
One of the researchers of the project, Courtney Moran, was thrilled with the results. “We expected him to exceed performance compared to what he might achieve with conventional systems, but the speed with which he learned motions and the number of motions he was able to control in such a short period of time was far beyond expectation. What really was amazing, and was another major milestone with MPL control, was his ability to control a combination of motions across both arms at the same time. This was a first for simultaneous bimanual control.”
Right now Baugh’s new limbs are only available in a lab setting, but the research team is planning to create a pair that he can wear outside of the laboratory as well.
Image via John Hopkins University