DARPA’s Revolutionary Prosthetic to Improve Wounded Veterans’ Lives


By Debbie Gregory.

Since the Global War on Terrorism began, there have been more than 2,000 Veterans who have required limb amputations due to wounds suffered in combat. While many Veterans lives are never the same after service to their country, these wounded warriors face more obstacles than most of their comrades. The loss of function of one or multiple limbs adds to the enormous stress that all Veterans face when trying to lead a civilian life.

Ten years ago, if someone had an arm amputated, the options for a prosthetic arm were limited. Generally, they could choose a non-functioning mock arm/hand, or some sort of hook or claw, if they wanted to have any semblance of a functioning limb. However, neither option offered any form of real dexterity.

But now, a new prosthetic, inspired by wounded Veterans, has been developed that can function just like a real hand. The artificial hand was recently on display at a Congressional Tech Showcase for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).  DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program developed the technology over the last five years, with the intention of improving the quality of life for Veterans with upper-limb amputations. The hand demonstrated the ability to accomplish a variety of tasks, using both fine and gross motor skills. The ability to use fine motor skills is an extraordinary advancement in prosthetics. The hand was able to accomplish many tasks from picking up tiny items, grasping sensitive items (such as grapes, without squishing them), catching a ball; and even playing the piano. The best part of this technology is that it is controlled by the user’s brain.

Researchers essentially took the sequences of complex information needed to maneuver a limb to perform a task, and reduced them down to simple commands that operate the prosthetic. The commands are processed from the brain to the prosthetic utilizing two small chips implanted in the user’s brain.

Developers are already seeing the many possible uses that this technology, including applications for the elderly.  At Military Connection, we are very eager to see this technology being made available to wounded Veterans. Should they choose to use it, this could be a life changing improvement for scores of Veterans. Our wounded Veterans deserve every available resource that our government has to offer in order to restore their lives to a sense of normalcy.