I’ve been here in Anaheim, California for the every-18-month DARPA Technology Symposium put on by the Pentagon’s mad scientist department. There’s Chuck Hildreth modeling a DARPA-funded prosthetic arm built by DEKA Research, the company run by Segway inventor Dean Kamen
This is the arm’s first public appearance, and it, along with prosthetics being developed for the same program by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab (APL), stole the show.
Using a couple of joysticks, one operated by Hildreth’s stump, the other in his right shoe, Hildreth demonstrated how he can operate a drill, pick up and eat M&M’s one at a time, and shake hands.
Those little hoses on his belt feed air to a set of bladders in Hildreth’s harness, continuously adjusting the arm’s fit and the way its 9-pound weight is distributed across Hildreth’s back and shoulders in response to the arm’s movements.
Hildreth told me the system is extremely comfortable, and relatively easy to use. He’d been working with it for a total of 30 hours, and he already seemed quite proficient at using it.