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Robotic Arm Inspired by Luke Skywalker Gives Amputees the Ability to Touch and Feel Again

"It almost put me to tears."

Twentieth Century Fox

New technology from engineers at the University of Utah is changing the lives of amputees. The robotic arm, which is being called Luke in honor of Luke Skywalker’s artificial hand in The Empire Strikes Back. The robotic arm enables recipients to touch and feel again. The device consists of a prosthetic hand and fingers that are controlled by electrodes implanted in the muscles.

A prototype has been given to Keven Walgamott, an estate agent from Utah who is one of seven test subjects. He lost his hand and part of his left arm in 2002 after an electrical accident. With the arm, Walgamott has been able to complete tasks that were previously very difficult, such as put a pillowcase on a pillow, peel a banana, and even send text messages. Study leader and University of Utah biomedical engineer Professor Gregory Clark told the Independent that one of the first things Walgamott wanted to do was put on his wedding ring. “That’s hard to do with one hand,” Clark said. “It was very moving.”

Engineers have named the groundbreaking device Luke after the prosthetic arm worn by Luke Skywalker at the conclusion of the Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back.

Walgamott can even feel sensations like touching his wife’s hand, as well as distinguish between different surfaces. This is not only a major scientific breakthrough, but an emotional moment for Walgamott, who’s been without his left hand for nearly 20 years. “It almost put me to tears,” he said of using Luke for the first time. “It was really amazing. I never thought I would be able to feel in that hand again.”

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Now the next step is if this technology can incorporate what this real-life amputee did with her own lightsaber!

Whoa!