When I wrote about DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program in Popular Science back in 2007, the editors, without running it by me first, called it out on the cover with a headline that sold the project as creating a “bionic arm that’s better than human.”
The researchers in charge of the project at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab (APL) weren’t too happy about that. They had impressed upon me that they most emphatically were not creating the Bionic Man with superhuman abilities. They just wanted restore as much of a disabled person’s abilities as possible—with a robotic arm wired directly to a user’s brain.
Cut to 2015, and the project is even closer to its goal. This year, DARPA announced that the program had succeeded in imparting the arm developed at APL with feeling.
I got a chance to run an update on the project, this time for Popular Mechanics online, and for Bloomberg Businessweek. Both stories were published last month.
Last week I paid a visit to the Bloomberg offices in New York City to tape an on-camera interview to give more of my thoughts on what’s next for the program (it’s winding down) and for prosthetics and robotics and general (they’ll soon be everywhere).
That hasn’t been released yet, but in the meantime, you can check out my Businessweek story on the Bloomberg Business website: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-08/a-prosthetic-arm-that-gives-amputees-the-sense-of-touch.
And my Popular Mechanics story on popularmechanics.com: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/a17702/brain-controlled-prostheses-is-closer-than-you-think/.
No, “getting closer to human” doesn’t have quite the zip as “better than human,” but it’s just as “awesome,” as my PopMech editor termed it in the headline for my story there.