While it’s not cool to have your hand sliced off by your own dad and having to install a bionic replacement, for Leslie Baugh, who lost both his arms 40 years ago in an electrical accident, having a pair of bionic arms is probably something he never thought would happen.
At the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, researchers have been working on a Revolutionising Prosthetics Program for the past decade. The Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL) isn’t new, but having to wear two is. And Leslie is the first ‘bilateral shoulder-level amputee’ to wear and control two MPLs at the same time.
This ain't special effects
For the experiment, Leslie had to undergo a process called targeted muscle reinnervation, in which they reassigned the nerves that once controlled his arms. They then recorded his brain patterns according to the muscle that he moves. Leslie got some practice on virtual arms before he attempted the real thing, and it turned out to be an astounding success that exceeded all their expectations.
The researchers did not think that Leslie would have progressed as quickly as he did, but it reaffirmed their belief in the intuitive nature of this system. In just 10 days, Leslie was able to move cups from one shelf to another, and his ability to control both arms at the same time while doing a combination of motions, was also unprecedented.
Unfortunately for Leslie, these new arms can’t be used outside of a laboratory setting just yet, but the future is looking rather bright.
The sheer thought of controlling limbs with your mind alone isn’t that far-off now.