BALTIMORE — A Colorado man made history this summer when he was successfully outfitted with two robotic arms at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
Les Baugh, who lost both of his arms in an electrical accident 40 years ago, began working with the limbs in June, the lab said, but a video of the tests was released just this week.
Before putting the limb system through the paces, Baugh had to undergo a surgery known as targeted muscle reinnervation. A complicated socket system was also installed on his body.
Afterward, he was able to operate the arms by simply thinking about moving his limbs, performing a variety of basic tasks during a short training period, APL said.
“It’s a relatively new surgical procedure that reassigns nerves that once controlled the arm and the hand,” explained Johns Hopkins Trauma Surgeon Albert Chi, M.D. “By reassigning existing nerves, we can make it possible for people who have had upper-arm amputations to control their prosthetic devices by merely thinking about the action they want to perform.”
Baugh is the first bilateral shoulder-level amputee to wear and simultaneously control two of the Modular Prosthetic Limbs.
The research team was “floored” by what Baugh was able to accomplish in just two weeks.
“We expected him to exceed performance compared to what he might achieve with conventional systems, but the speed with which he learned motions and the number of motions he was able to control in such a short period of time was far beyond expectation,” Courtney Moran, a prosthetist on the project, said. “What really was amazing, and was another major milestone with MPL control, was his ability to control a combination of motions across both arms at the same time. This was a first for simultaneous bimanual control.”
The next step is to develop a rig that Baugh can wear home, and during his daily life, researchers said.