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DARPA's prosthetic challenge nets first prototype

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Less than a year after challenging researchers to develop a bionic arm that looks, feels, and works like a real arm by 2009, DARPA's Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program has now netted its first prototype, PhysOrg reports, with one patient already putting the arm through its paces. Developed by a team at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, the appropriately-dubbed Proto 1 system not only consists of a prosthetic arm, but a virtual environment that patients can use to get accustomed to it. Like other similar systems, the Proto 1 makes use of residual nerves in the patient to control the arm, which also allows for them to receive a sensation of grip strength and touch. That apparently makes the arm precise enough to remove a credit card from a pocket, with the arm also boasting a "free swing mode" that allows for a more natural movement when the patient is walking. While Proto 1 seems to have already been enough to attract interest from various government agencies, the researchers don't look to be resting on their laurels, with them already hard at work on Proto 2.

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