A team that includes many students and is led by Gregory Clark at the University of Utah is researching DEKA’s LUKE robotic arm, which is named in part after Luke Skywalker and developed through a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional project. The U team is working in cooperation with other groups and companies, such as Blackrock Microsystems, DEKA, and Ripple Neuro.
The student group supporting the project is composed of engineering and science students. One of the students involved, computer science major Troy Tully said, “I have a fair amount of free reign on what I want to research. We can push ourselves and think independently.”
The LUKE arm is a neuroprosthetic that can be attached to someone’s own body. However, it goes further than most conventional prosthetics. The LUKE arm has sensors for touch and movement. The output of these sensors can be used to stimulate remaining sensory fibers via Utah Slanted Electrode Arrays in the arm to evoke the senses of touch and movement. Although the arm is still in experimental form, several tests and personal experiences with it already underline its usefulness and emotional impact on those who have tried it. The goal is to make it easier for people to return to activities they found difficult before.
The research on this project is leading the way for related potential technology. The method of transmitting information via electrodes to the sensory fibers can also be used for spinal cord injury, bladder control, and pain reduction.
Another student working on the project, biomedical engineering major Sri Radhakrishnan said, “One effort is developing a control system for prosthetic arm movement that is less expensive than the current models we are using.” The LUKE arm is only the tip of the iceberg for where the team hopes the technology can go.
Find this article and a lot more in the 2020 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.