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The world's first implantable robotic arm controlled by thoughts

December 17, 2012 | Telepresence Options

[Image: Max Ortiz Catalan demonstrates how the system works with the aid of electrodes, which capture bio-electric signals from the surface of the arm. Amputees will, however, have the electrodes implanted directly on the nerves and muscles inside the body, which will be permanently accessible through the Branemark osseointegrated implant (OPRA Implant System). Photo: Oscar Mattsson]

Thought-controlled prosthesis is changing the lives of amputees

The world's first implantable robotic arm controlled by thoughts is being developed by Chalmers researcher Max Ortiz Catalan. The first operations on patients will take place this winter.

Published Wed 28 Nov 2012

Max-Ortiz-robotarm.jpgEvery year, thousands of people across the world lose an arm or a leg.

"Our technology helps amputees to control an artificial limb, in much the same way as their own biological hand or arm, via the person's own nerves and remaining muscles. This is a huge benefit for both the individual and to society", says Max Ortiz Catalan, industrial doctoral student at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.

Ever since the 1960s, amputees have been able to use prostheses controlled by electrical impulses in the muscles. Unfortunately, however, the technology for controlling these prostheses has not evolved to any great extent since then. For example, very advanced electric hand prostheses are available, but their functionality is limited because they are difficult to control.

"All movements must by pre-programmed", says Max Ortiz Catalan. "It's like having a Ferrari without a steering wheel. Therefore, we have developed a new bidirectional interface with the human body, together with a natural and intuitive control system."

Today's standard socket prostheses, which are attached to the body using a socket tightly fitted on the amputated stump, are so uncomfortable and limiting that only 50 percent of arm amputees are willing to use one at all.

This research project is using the world-famous Br�nemark titanium implant instead (OPRA Implant System), which anchors the prosthesis directly to the skeleton through what is known as osseointegration.

"Osseointegration is vital to our success. We are now using the technology to gain permanent access to the electrodes that we will attach directly to nerves and muscles", says Max Ortiz Catalan.

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