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The Luke Skywalker arm let an amputee wear his wedding ring again after 17 years

After 15 years of development, a robotic prosthetic lets users feel human touch in a new way.

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The Luke arm has 15 years worth of improvements and is now delivering a newfound sense of touch to its wearers.  

DARPA

The latest development in robotic prosthetic technology from the University of Utah has allowed amputee Keven Walgamott to finally wear his wedding ring again. It's something he hasn't been able to do since losing his left hand and part of his arm to an electrical accident in 2002, and the moment was a product of a 14-month study published in Science Robotics on Wednesday.

In its latest iteration, the motorized "Luke arm" -- named for Star Wars hero Luke Skywalker's robotic limb in The Empire Strikes Back -- delivers a sense of touch via electrodes implanted in the wearer's forearm, and then relaying movement signals to the prosthetic hand. 

In a release from the University of Utah, Walgamott said his first trial in 2017 "almost put me in tears ... it was really amazing. I never thought I would be able to feel in that hand again." 

"We changed the way we are sending that information to the brain so that it matches the human body," said Jacob George, a co-author of the study. "And by matching the human body, we were able to see improved benefits. We're making more biologically realistic signals."

Earlier versions of the device, initially developed by a research group under the inventor of the Segway, have allowed an Army veteran to go rock climbing again.    

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