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Tactile robotic arm for amputees hits the market

por Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | July 14, 2016
Medical Devices
Mobius Bionics' LUKE arm
A new robotic arm hit the market that will give people with forearm through shoulder-level amputations greater independence. Mobius Bionics LLC’s LUKE arm is the first prosthetic arm cleared by the FDA in a new product category for integrated prosthetic arms.

All of the arms features and capabilities are provided to the patient as a complete system, which avoids any potential compatibility issues between joints or components.

The LUKE arm has a powered shoulder that can reach overhead or behind the back, a powered elbow that can lift a bag of groceries from the floor to the table and a powered wrist that can hold a glass of water overhead or at the waist without spilling.

The hand has four independent motors and a conforming grip that can hold small things like a phone or an egg or heavy things like a gallon of milk. Its grip-force sensor detects how firmly something is being grasped and relays that information to the user.

The LUKE arm was developed by DEKA Research & Development Corp. as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Revolutionizing Prosthetics program. Additional funding was provided by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command through a contract with the Army Research Office.

DEKA was engaged with amputees in a number of studies, including Veterans Affairs (VA) studies, to understand how biology and engineering can advance prosthetic technologies. DEKA received performance feedback on the design of the robotic arm from VA clinical optimization and take-home studies.

“Working one-on-one with the amputees and learning what they liked and didn’t like about using prostheses proved invaluable to our product development process,” Dean Kamen, president of DEKA, said in a statement. “Thanks to their insight and input, we have been able to construct the most advanced FDA-cleared design that the world of upper-limb prosthetics has seen to date.”

The LUKE arm was tested on almost 100 amputees over the course of 10,000 hours of use. Mobius Bionic is expecting to launch the arm in late 2016.

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