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  (Source: jhuapl.edu)
Plugs directly into the brain.

A revolutionary advancement in artificial limbs will provide the first hard-wired brain-control of bionic body parts.  The John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have joined forces to develop the brain-interface Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL).  

The limb will be controlled by computer cursors implanted in the brain and will restore the sense of touch by sending electrical impulses from the limb back to the sensory cortex.

APL was awarded a $34.5 million contract with the government agency to begin testing the prototype on human subjects over the next two years, according to a Hopkins Applied Physics Lab press release and Singularity Hub.

"We’ve developed the enabling technologies to create upper-extremity prosthetics that are more natural in appearance and use, a truly revolutionary advancement in prosthetics," said APL Program Manager Michael McLoughlin. "Now, in Phase 3, we are ready to test it with humans to demonstrate that the system can be operated with a patient’s thoughts and that it can provide that patient with sensory feedback, restoring the sensation of touch."

The MLP includes 22 degrees of motion, allows independent control of all five fingers, and weighs the same as a natural human limb (about nine pounds). 

The MPL will be the first artificial limb that can bypass spinal cord injury connect directly into the brain.  This would be beneficial for quadriplegic patients that are unable to use some traditional prosthetics, specifically those controlled by the feet.  They would be the first human subjects tested for the project.    

Researchers on the project have found that so far their biggest hurdle to overcome is increasing the short lifespan of the implants.  Embedded in brain tissue, the silicon chips erode over time and would need to be replaced within two years.





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