Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Restoration of Function

Biological, prosthetic and other technologies designed to provide function equivalent to function lost due to disease or injury

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Pressure—the physical quantity of an experience of touch—is a fundamental dimension of human perception, conveying to the brain not just that the skin is in contact with something, but also how intense the contact is. That awareness is what enables people to, for instance, gently but securely handle an egg without squeezing so hard that the shell cracks.
The holiday season is bringing high-tech offerings for U.S. war veterans this year in the form of sophisticated bionic arms developed under the direction of DARPA. In a ceremony today at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Md., Justin Sanchez, Director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, delivered the first two advanced “LUKE” arms from a new production line—shiny evidence that the fast-track DARPA research effort has completed its transition into a commercial enterprise. As part of that transition process, DARPA is collaborating with WRNMMC to make the advanced prostheses available to service members and veterans who are rehabilitating after suffering upper-limb loss.
At a ceremony in New York today, two veterans living with arm amputations became the first recipients of a new generation of prosthetic limb that promises them unprecedented, near-natural arm and hand motion. The modular, battery-powered arms, designed and developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), represent the most significant advance in upper extremity prosthetics in more than a century.
DARPA has awarded contracts to five research organizations and one company that will support the Neural Engineering System Design (NESD) program: Brown University; Columbia University; Fondation Voir et Entendre (The Seeing and Hearing Foundation); John B. Pierce Laboratory; Paradromics, Inc.; and the University of California, Berkeley. These organizations have formed teams to develop the fundamental research and component technologies required to pursue the NESD vision of a high-resolution neural interface and integrate them to create and demonstrate working systems able to support potential future therapies for sensory restoration. Four of the teams will focus on vision and two will focus on aspects of hearing and speech.
DARPA launched the Restoring Active Memory (RAM) program in November 2013 with the goal of developing a fully implantable, closed-loop neural interface capable of restoring normal memory function to military personnel suffering from the effects of brain injury or illness. Just over four years later, the program is returning remarkable results.