The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for approving medical devices (among other things). Which is why that agency had to review Luke, one of the many items Dean Kamen and his company (DEKA Research and Development) have developed that have transformative potential. I’ve posted here about Kamen’s water purification technology, and most of you have likely heard of the Segway, which he developed as well. Luke is the nickname for the DEKA Arm, which is funded by the Department of Defense. DEKA is working with Next Step Bionics and Prosthetics and biodesigns, inc. to develop the project, which has been in the works since at least 2007, based on this TED talk.
The FDA approval means that the arm, which can translate electrical systems from the body into movement, can be commercialized. It can be configured for those with limb loss at the shoulder or at the middle of the upper or lower arm (but not at the wrist or the elbow). Luke represents advances in dexterity and precision that should allow users to do much more than is currently possible with similar prosthetics.
While the arm can now be marketed, it is far from certain that the devices will achieve widespread use. Certainly the military, which helped fund the research behind Luke, could be in a position to make sure veterans and service members can obtain the arms. But will insurance companies and medical professionals take to the device at numbers that would make the devices a commonplace for those missing their arms.
As for the increase in the cyborg population, I for one welcome our future part-robotic overlords. </Simpsons>