Meet Les Baugh, a double amputee from Colorado who lost both his arms in an electrical accident nearly 40 years ago. He's now entered into the history books by becoming the first person to ever receive two shoulder-level prosthetic arms that he can control with his mind.
Unfortunately, Baugh, after participating in this two-week experiment, was not able to take the new limbs home with him. But if the researchers at Johns Hopkins have their way, he'll eventually be able to make it a permanent add-on.
After undergoing surgery to reassign the nerves that once controlled his arms, the researchers fitted Baugh with the two arms. Pattern recognition software identified when his muscles were contracting and how they communicated with each other. That data was then translated into actual movements. Combined, the two arms allow him 30 degrees of total motion.
A Johns Hopkins release explains more:
By the time the socket was finished, Baugh said he was more than ready to get started. When he was fitted with the socket, and the prosthetic limbs were attached, he said "I just went into a whole different world." He moved several objects, including an empty cup from a counter-shelf height to a higher shelf, a task that required him to coordinate the control of eight separate motions to complete.
"This task simulated activities that may commonly be faced in a day-to-day environment at home," said APL's Courtney Moran, a prosthetist working with Baugh. "This was significant because this is not possible with currently available prostheses. He was able to do this with only 10 days of training, which demonstrates the intuitive nature of the control."
Moran said the research team was floored by what Baugh was able to accomplish.
"We expected him to exceed performance compared to what he might achieve with conventional systems, but the speed with which he learned motions and the number of motions he was able to control in such a short period of time was far beyond expectation," she said. "What really was amazing, and was another major milestone with MPL control, was his ability to control a combination of motions across both arms at the same time. This was a first for simultaneous bimanual control."
Incredible. Baugh is probably the most cyborg-looking person I've ever seen.
Read more at Johns Hopkins.