Jan Scheuermann, a 52-year-old quadriplegic woman, has a robot arm. Here’s the thing, she’s operating it by thought. She wants the hand to do something, it does it with the definition nearly that of a fully able-bodied person.
Even more incredible: She achieved this newfound ability after only thirteen weeks of training. A little over three months, boom, robot arm that works great. Jan was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that jacked up her spinal cord and made her lose the ability to control her limbs over thirteen years. And this new rehab has given her a robot arm.
A professor of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh, Andrew Schwartz, noted that it’s even more awesome:
The participant was able to move the prosthetic limb freely in the three-dimensional workspace on the second day of training. … The participant was also able to use the prosthetic limb to do skilful and coordinated reach and grasp movements that resulted in clinically significant gains in tests of upper limb function. No adverse events were reported.
Of course, in order to do this, brain implants were required, so we’re talking major surgery. But for those with spinal cord injuries, that’s something you probably won’t be able to avoid anyway, and the uncanny success rate shows that this is not only a possible form of rehabilitation, but one that can become very successful.
Five years from now, we’ll have people with full on robot limbs and we won’t even be able to tell the difference.
And don’t you worry, kids, there’s video:
Question: Just do me a favor and don’t cut your arms off, okay? Please?