Revolutionary Prosthetic Arms changes Army Veterans Lives

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Today is Purple Heart Day and Purple Heart Day is an observance that commemorates the creation of the Purple Heart Medal in 1782.

The Purple Heart medal is awarded to those who were wounded or killed while serving the US military. This holiday encourages people to pay their respects to fallen soldiers, to listen to the stories of soldiers and veterans, and to thank them for their service to the nation.

We thought that today would be the perfect day to share a story related to assistive technology and how it helps some veterans. Earlier this summer two Army veterans, Fred Downs and Arte McAuley, both lost their left arms more that 40 years ago were able preform many tasks with their LUKE prosthetic arms.

“Stirring with this, I’m cutting with that, dicing,” said Downs, whose left arm was amputated below the elbow after he was injured in during the Vietnam War. “It’s the fun part of being able to use two hands to get all the vegetables prepared, and the meat prepared, and start the grill, and hold plates.”

LUKE is an acronym for Life Under Kinetic Evolution, but it’s also a nod to Luke Skywalker, who received a bionic hand after losing his during a lightsaber battle in “Star Wars.”

Thin, clear rubber covers the metal and plastic fingers which bend, flex and have at least four different grips. The wrist can turn and the shoulder also rotates. Each motion is controlled with their feet, which have tiny wireless transmitters sending signals to the LUKE.

The prosthetic limbs provide “unprecedented, near-natural arm and hand motion,” according to a DARPA press release. “The LUKE system has a fully functional, articulated shoulder joint, which offers unprecedented mobility and quality of life even for individuals with total arm loss.”

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