Imagine having a bionic arm that moves and functions based on your own nerve signals, thus allowing you to flex your finger and move your elbow at will. According to Ning Jiang, professor of Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo, this technology will hopefully be available for commercial release within the next three to five years, as reported on 570 News.
For amputees, although they may be missing an entire arm, which includes bone and muscle, the nerves controlling those muscles are still there. The idea is to use these phantom limb nerves to send nerve signals to the bionic arm, and ultimately understand what the person wants to do.
The technology behind this bionic arm has two components: a medical component, being developed by a team in Europe, in which the phantom limb nerves are surgically grafted to chest and back muscles, and a software component, being developed at the University of Waterloo, in which the nerve signals are gathered and analyzed, allowing the software to interpret what the user is trying to do.
But it would not be just amputees who would benefit from this technology, says Professor Jiang. Patients who have motor disabilities such as Parkinson’s disease, as well as patients who have suffered strokes or spinal cord injuries, could benefit from these bionic arms. Specifically, as long as it is possible to detect information from muscles or the brain, it will be possible to assist patients with such devices, says Professor Jiang.