A paralyzed man may never regain his ability to move his own arm. But if it's the thought that counts, then quadriplegic Tim Hemmes is well on his way. Hemmes, paralyzed in a motorcycle accident seven years ago, recently made a robotic arm move just by thinking about it. Hemmes had a chip implanted on the surface of his brain that reads his intention to move his paralyzed arm and sends that instruction instead to an advanced bionic arm. Here, Hemmes' girlfriend, Katie Schaffer, receives a high-five sent by Hemmes.
Keep clicking to learn more about this robot arm...
Hemmes is part of a month-long science experiment at the University of Pittsburgh. Researchers are working on thought-controlled prosthetics to give the paralyzed more independence. Though they are making progress, the research is years away from commercial use, the Associated Press reports.
The arm was developed primarily for amputees. Quadriplegic patients such as Hemmes face a more complicated situation because of their broken spinal cords. For them, scientists use implanted electrodes called a "brain-computer interface," or BCI, to record electrical activity and send it to the robotic arm.
Hemmes was testing a new type of chip to see if it would allow movement. The operation took two hours.
How did Hemmes take to the experiment?
"There's no owner's manual," he said, after much back-and-forth. "I'm training my brain to figure how to do all this."
Credit: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Hemmes likened moving the arm to learning to drive a car with a manual transmission. It took practice, but by week four he was moving the arm sideways as well as back and forth.
Hemmes' ultimate goal is to hug his 8-year-old daughter. "I'm going to do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to do that again."