The pursuit to develop a bionic arm that can connect to the human brain took a step forward with the Tuesday announcement that National Institutes of Health scientists had developed a wireless brain implant that operates a prosthesis.
The implant translates the electronic activity sparked by the brain and turns it into a digital signal that can move the prosthesis. The key, though, is that the implant is wireless and connects directly to the prosthesis without the need of additional wires.
Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency started the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program in 2006 and have made major advances in prosthesis technology. Operating a prosthetic arm or leg naturally with a simple thought has been a goal of the program.
DARPA had developed a hard wired connection that required wires that ran from the head to a computer and then more wires to the prosthesis. A wireless connection directly to a bionic arm or leg would provide a much more streamlined design.
The 2-inch titanium implant communicates with the prosthesis with electromagnectic signals. It recharges itself through induction.
NIH scientists have tested the wireless brain implant on pigs and rhesus monkeys for more than a year. Military Times broke the story on Wednesday.