The LUKE prosthetic arm is taking another big step today, as DARPA has delivered the first two arms to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC). These arms, along with others from a new production line, will be prescribed to veterans in need of them. The WRNMMC will select the veterans that will get these arms, and the manufacturers of the LUKE – Mobius Bionics – will train Walter Reed physicians on how the arms function and how to fit patients with them.
In its announcement, DARPA says that this is "evidence that the fast-track DARPA research effort has completed its transition into a commercial enterprise." Indeed, earlier in the year we heard that the LUKE arm would see a commercial release by the end of 2016, and with the delivery of these two arms, that goal has been accomplished.
LUKE – short for Life Under Kinetic Evolution and a reference to Luke Skywalker’s own robotic arm from The Empire Strikes Back – was developed by DEKA Integrated Solutions and is being marketed by Mobius Biotics. It was developed under DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics campaign. Have a look at the video below to see DARPA handing off the finished product to WRNMMC.
As DARPA explains it, the goal for the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program was to “gain U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for an advanced electromechanical prosthetic upper limb with near-natural control that enhances independence and improves quality of life for amputees.” DEKA achieved that goal with the LUKE arm in under eight years, which an impressive pace for such a project. Even so, it’s been a long road for the LUKE, but now the path to real-world usage is nearly complete.
From here, more LUKE arms from the initial production run will be transferred to WRNMMC to be prescribed to veterans who have lost limbs in combat. Assuming this first public offering of LUKE is successful, we’ll hopefully see it roll out on a somewhat wider scale in 2017 and beyond. Stay tuned for more, because this almost certainly isn’t the last we’ll hear from LUKE, DEKA, and DARPA.