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Monday August 1 2016 / Science & Technology

''The Six Million Dollar Man" is an American TV series that ran from 1974 to 1978. Steve Austin, the fictional hero of the series, became the world's first bionic man after having an eye, arm and both legs replaced by bionics offering more power and functionality than his lost flesh and blood limbs and organs.

But while computing power, sensors and technology have all evolved in leaps and bounds over the decades since the series aired, prosthetics − though they have certainly advanced − haven’t appeared to keep pace.

We have self-driving cars, but most robot arms still cannot hold a glass of water . . . or couldn't until the Luke.

The Luke is one of the world’s most advanced prosthetic arms. It was designed by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, the name comes from Luke Skywalker’s high-tech prosthetic arm from the Star Wars films. The Luke is largely operated by thought. It uses electrodes placed on a residual limb to pick up electrical signals from the user’s muscles. When the user tenses or flexes their arm, Luke changes its position and grip.

This is a much more intuitive bio-feedback system than basic prosthetics, which are usually adjusted manually by the wearer using switches.  <br> <br> Additional functionality is also available in the Luke using wireless sensors in the wearer’s shoe. Luke's hand has four independent motors allowing the wearer to hold anything from a raw egg to a glass of water.

Sensors in the fingers provide the user with feedback as to how hard they’re gripping.

And the Luke prosthetic is resistance to light rain and fine dust so can be worn fairly normally outside the home.

Mobius Bionics has announced that, after nearly 10 years of development, the Luke, which already has FDA approval, should be on the market later this year. Prices have not been revealed as yet, but don't expect much change from $100,000-. While that's not cheap by any standards, it's substantially less than six million dollars.

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Suggested by
Ian Skellern