Controlling robotic limbs with your brain is just step one. The Pentagon eventually wants artificial arms and legs to feel and perform just the same as naturally grown ones. Which means step two is hooking up those prosthetics directly into severed nerves. That’ll allow the wearer to detect subtle sensations, respond to the brain’s neural signals, move with unprecedented agility, and "incorporat[e] the limb into the sense-of-self."
Over the last decade, the Pentagon has made remarkable progress in creating life-like prosthetic devices. And most of the advances are because of programs funded by Darpa, the far-out military research agency that’s also behind this latest project, called Reliable Peripheral Interfaces (RPI).
Already, Darpa has funded ventures like the DEKA Arm, which relies on a joystick-style interface, and used "targeted muscle reinnervation surgery" for prosthetics that transmit neural signals from a bundle of nerves in the chest. Darpa-funded researchers at Johns Hopkins have even started human trials on their Modular Prosthetic Limb, which transmits cues to an artificial limb using brain-implanted micro-arrays.
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