Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, no strangers to reaching for seemingly unattainable goals in medical science, have set their sights on what some consider to be the ultimate pursuit of modern prosthetics: a bionic arm that moves, looks and feels like its human counterpart. And they want to do it by 2009. An earlier prototype
of the arm, the Proto 1, was shown in April of this year, and now the team of scientists is scrambling to ready the arm's second iteration, the Proto 2, in time to show it off this week at the 25th Darpa
Systems and Technology Symposium (where it will likely be joined by Dean Kamen's Darpa funded bionic arm
). Researchers hope that the prothesis, which is currently controlled by skin-surface-attached myoelectric sensors, can be made more intuitive by adding injectable sensors, which send increased amounts of signals (and have improved clarity) allowing for greater control of the arm. In time, the team hopes to move to nerve-attached electrodes, or electrode arrays implanted on the brain, which will eventually allow for full user dexterity.