Skip to main content

Luke Arm - How long between invention and innovation?

Look at the advances in less than a decade.  Here's a video from May 2016 from IEEE Spectrum.



Prosthetic Hand Restores Amputee's Sense of Touch


Luke Arm (Sept. 2009)




How long did Luke Skywalker have to wait for his prosthetic arm? Not long he was back in the action within days it seems.

I’ve been loosely following the Luke Arm - Dean Kamen’s name of the DARPA funded prosthesis. First I’m floored that in 30 months the team could create such a beautiful design (beautiful in an engineering way). The human arm (counting the hand also) has 22 degrees of freedom (DOF) (movements like forearm rotation). The traditional hook and cable prosthetic has just 3 DOF. That hook was designed in the days of sailing ships, updated with aircraft cabling to allow some movement after World War I.

The typical user gives up on the frustrating hook/cable arm after a few years. Why? Kamen’s group think it is the low return on investment (ROI) the arms provide the user. They don’t provide enough benefit (mobility, dexterity, functionality) for their cost - here cost is not money as many are provided by VA benefits - but cost in more human terms, like comfort of the device interface. Just one of the drawbacks; the socket is designed to cup the “stump” and becomes sweaty and slippery reducing functionality and decreasing comfort.

Update:  see 3D Printing a Better Socket for Prosthetic Limbs (TED.com) by David Sengeh of MIT Media Lab

Want to see the Luke arm in action? YouTube - IEEE Spectrum (video).

Now what puzzles me is that it took less that 3 years to invent the prosthetic arm but will take at least 3 years in clinical trials (FDA) if there is funding for the trials. DARPA funding does not extend into the clinical trial. But why does this device even require FDA approval and trials?

If this was a game console (Wii or Xbox) controller - like a Power Glove it would not require FDA approval. How is the Luke arm different?

Deka (Kamen’s company) received $18.1 million for a 30 month contract started in 2005, and delivered working prototypes in late 2007. A modular device weighing less that the human arm and nearly just as capable! It appears to be a wonderful invention, waiting on FDA approval to become an innovation.

What’s the difference between invention and innovation? Innovation is when that wonderful idea actually gets to usefulness in society. It is typically a 30 year process between invention and innovation. Will we have to wait another 30 years?

Ray Kurzweil has plotted the exponential curve of innovation for some well know inventions, see:  Mass use of Inventions (mass use defined as 1/4 of US population).

More info on the Luke arm and other DARPA prosthetic arm research at IEEE Spectrum.

Update: May 2014 - It appears that the DARPA project is on a fast track - it will not take 30 years.

USA FDA approves Deka to market a prosthetic arm that can perform multiple, simultaneous powered movements controlled by signals picked up from sensors on the user's arm (electromyogram or EMG).

See story and video from re/code:
FDA Approves Robotic Prosthesis Controlled by Muscle Contractions By James Temple

See Also:

Weird but related - a robotic arm that can catch random objects thrown to it.
Robotic Arm Catches Objects on the Fly

Kids Design Their Own Prosthetics 



A Budget Exoskeleton


Mashable



1 comment

Most Popular on Agile Complexification Inverter

Where is Shakespeare When We Need Him?

We are desperately searching for a term for people that connotes the best of human kind.  The creative, sensing, combinatorial synergistic, empathic solutioning persons that have yet to been labeled with a role name that works.

Some of the old terms:
Staff, Workforce, Human Resource, My Team, Army, Company

Shakespeare created 1700 words in his time.  He mutated verbs to nouns, and vice-a-versa, transformed verbs into adjectives, and formed words from whole cloth never before heard.  This skill is rare, but there is a poet that can create the term we need in the twenty-first century.

What should this term define?

21st Century Human Resource; the generalizing specialist.

Yes, but what more?  What less?

Suggest your poetry in the comments, let us see if we cannot do 1/1700 as well as The Bard.

By-the-way; who create the phrase "coin a word"?



A TED Play List - How do you create new words
6:52
Erin McKeanGo ahead, make up new words! In this fun, short talk from TEDYouth, lexicographer Er…

Elements of an Effective Scrum Task Board

What are the individual elements that make a Scrum task board effective for the team and the leadership of the team?  There are a few basic elements that are quite obvious when you have seen a few good Scrum boards... but there are some other elements that appear to elude even the most servant of leaders of Scrum teams.









In general I'm referring to a physical Scrum board.  Although software applications will replicated may of the elements of a good Scrum board there will be affordances that are not easily replicated.  And software applications offer features not easily implemented in the physical domain also.





Scrum Info Radiator Checklist (PDF) Basic Elements
Board Framework - columns and rows laid out in bold colors (blue tape works well)
Attributes:  space for the total number of stickies that will need to belong in each cell of the matrix;  lines that are not easy eroded, but are also easy to replace;  see Orientation.

Columns (or Rows) - labeled
    Stories
    To Do
    Work In P…

One Dark and Stormy during a Hurricane

I'm from the Carolina's where legend has it that our family commonly just hunkered down in the home on the coast and waterways than to head for inland shelter. Now that's from the old school days of barely improved (read paved) roads. They counted a storms severity by how high on the back porch steps (about 15 - top to ground) the water reached.  I don't recommend this action in todays world of long range forecast and transportation options.

I do recommend a drink or two in a hotel bar, far far away.

This is the week that Harvey came ashore in Texas.  I live on a hill in the little old town of Grapevine outside Dallas and Fort Worth.  And thank you all for letting me know that a storm is coming... I didn't get out and walk Malibu before the rain hit, so I grabbed a hat and we went anyway.  Much nicer walk with the drizzle, I'd say.

I'll raise a glass to you - if you were not smart enough to do the responsible thing, at the last responsible moment.

I do re…

Could your Apple Watch be limiting your Career?

So you have the new Apple Watch - yes, it's quite nice, and you love the convenience of all your notification right on your wrist.  Did you notice that when the VP was asking about the project, as you were describing the challenges you paused, lifted your arm, checked the latest notification that she was a bit put-out by the exchange.  Although you went on to tell her that your team had overcome the challenges with an innovative solution.  The VP disengaged in the dialogue and walked away.  Wonder why?

What was the unintended message of your body language during that encounter?

Did you signal that you were busy, late for an appointment, not interested in the conversation, that you were dismissing the participant - what did your raised arm and glancing at your watch tell the VP?  Is that truly what you wished to signal?

We have had 10 years to learn to use a iPhone and now in meetings you will notice people signaling that they are prepared to engage in the dialogue by placing thei…

Situational Leadership II Model & Theory

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought the technique needed to move forward was one thing, yet the person leading (your leader) assumed something else was what was needed?  Did you feel misaligned, unheard, marginalized?  Would you believe that 54% of all leaders only use ONE style of leadership - regardless of the situation?  Does that one style of leading work well for the many levels of development we see on a team?

Perhaps your team should investigate one of the most widely used leadership models in the world ("used to train over 5 million managers in the world’s most respected organizations").  And it's not just for the leaders.  The training is most effective when everyone receives the training and uses the model.  The use of a ubiquitous language on your team is a collaboration accelerator.  When everyone is using the same mental model, speaking the same vernacular hours of frustration and discussion may be curtailed, and alignment achieved, outcomes …