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Chicago Company Develops Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Chicago company has received the Chicago Innovation Award, for their life changing work, aimed at helping upper-limb amputees around the country. CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot got a chance to see how one man has benefited from the company's technology.

Retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class, Glen Lehman, writes his name with ease. Lehman lost his right arm while serving in Baghdad, in 2008. He's using technology created by Chicago based COAPT allowing him to move his prosthetic arm just by thinking about it.

"Now it's just natural," Sgt. Lehman said. "It feels like it's a part of me."

This "complete control" technology as it's called, is like a brain, inside a bionic arm. It allows Lehman to do everyday tasks, like folding this towel and holding a bottle of water.

So how does this work? The muscles in his arm send out electricity. Those electrodes, resting on the skin, sense the electricity, sending a message to the COAPT device allowing Lehman to move his arm and hand.

"It feels great to know that technology is finally catching up," Lehman said. "I lost my arm in service to my country, you know and there's people in this country that are trying to give it back and make it better, so, I thank them for that."

Lehman expresses that gratitude toward COAPT CEO, Blair Lock.

Lock and his team collaborated with bionics experts at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Their technology can be added to any prosthetic arm for between $10,000 and $15,000 dollars. It is available right now, throughout the United States.

"We often don't take enough time to think about how this technology is changing lives, but that is a significant impact of what we do and it affects the work we do every day," said COAPT CEO Blair Lock.

"I can do all the same things that I could do before with the prosthetic, but now it's just easier with this arm," Lehman said.

The second generation of COAPT's technology will be available internationally, next year.

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