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“Star Wars” Arm Called A Game-Changer For Amputees

By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TV
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Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TV Medical Reporter Dr. Mallika Marshall
Dr. Mallika Marshall is WBZ-TV News’ Medical Reporter and contributes...
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CBS Boston (con't)

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BOSTON (CBS) – It’s amazing technology out of DEKA, the New Hampshire company founded by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway and many other medical devices. It’s a high-tech prosthesis, and for soldiers who lost an arm in war, it’s being called a “game-changer”.

The “Luke Arm”, named after the artificial arm that Luke Skywalker received in Star Wars, is built from tiny computers, accelerometers, gyroscopes, 3-D printed materials. It’s equipped with six pre-programmed grips and controlled by wireless sensors in the shoes, much like a joystick. Roll a foot to one side or the other, or forwards and backwards and the arm responds by bending, twisting, opening, closing, and grasping. Patients can eat, peel carrots, transfer eggs without crushing them, and even go fishing.

“Our goal was to try to bring so much functionality back to the hand that it would be like the Luke arm,” says Kamen. “It’s a great technical accomplishment, but more than that, we’re supplying an extraordinary capability to some extraordinary people… these people that have literally given their arms for this country deserve this kind of support.”

Chuck Hildreth was 18 years old when he was electrocuted, losing both of his arms. He’s been using a prosthetic hook, which is a far cry from the Luke Arm. He was able to test the new device.

Hildreth says that not only would the Luke Arm restore his self-worth, but would relieve his wife and kids of the burden of caring for him. “It’s remarkable,” he says. “This arm would free up for me to give back to them. To give them a break… for them to be part of a normal-ish family instead of gee, we gotta help dad out.”

Matthew Albuquerque is a certified prosthetist who helps with the fitting and design of artificial limbs. He says the Luke Arm is really something special.

“It gives people hope,” says Albuquerque. “For the people out there who are missing a limb right now, this is a great day for them.”

Hildreth is anxiously waiting for the Luke Arm to hit the market. “I hope I’m at the top of the list,” he chuckles.

The Luke Arm just won FDA approval, and Kamen hopes to start producing it for the public within a year or so.

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