In the past, we have seen quite a few instances where people have been able to control their prosthetics with just theirthoughts. Recently, a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins used the Myo armband on an amputee to help him control his prosthetic arm with his mind. The Myo armband is a $199 band that anyone can wear on their arm to control devices. When a person wearing it makes a gesture, the armband recognizes it by reading muscle activity and sends the gesture to a connected device.
Johnny Matheny, who lost one of his arms to cancer, is the subject of this research. He wears two Myo armbands that monitor his muscle activity on his upper arm when he thinks of moving his arm in different ways (twist, grip, open, close, etc.), converts them into signals, transmits them to a computer nearby which in turn sends them to the prosthetic arm to perform the desired action. In the future, it is expected that Johnny may be able to tell how hard or soft an object is, or even the temperature of it.
This is not a very straightforward process though. Johnny had to get surgery done first to rearrange nerves from his missing arm. After the surgery and getting the prosthetic fit, he spent thousands of hours training his mind and doing a lot of mental exercises to work with the prosthetic arm. However, his efforts have paid off so far. He says what he is a part of is like being on the first plane by Wright Brothers, but in the future, with more research and advancement, we will get to the Maserati of prosthetics.
Watch the video below to see Johnny Matheny work his prosthetic arm.
Interested in knowing more about the Myo armband? Watch this quick video.