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U Gets $1.4 Million in DARPA Funding for More Bionic Hand Research

Researchers in the University of Utah Department of Bioengineering announced Monday that they’re receiving a $1.4 million dollar grant to continue developing a bionic hand.

The money comes from the U-S Defense Department through its Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. Gregory Clark is an associate professor at the U and is leading the research team. His staff is basing their research on the Utah Slanted Electrode Array. It’s a tiny neural interface with 100 electrodes connecting an amputees arm to his or her brain through peripheral nerves.

“This would allow a user to use to advanced prosthetic hand just by thinking about it because we would wiretap into the remaining arm nerves, capture the signals and send them to the artificial hand,” says Clark. “It would also allow the user to receive sensory feedback from the real prosthetic hand as if it’s a real biological hand; that is a sense of touch and a sense of movement.”

Clark says so far their research has only been working with volunteers moving a virtual hand on a computer screen for proof of concept. In the second stage, they’ll be connected to a real bionic hand.

“And Stage 3 is what we’re really all working for and working backwards from that goal is to allow user to take an advanced prosthetic arm and hand home,” says Clark.

He says because so much research has already been done, it’s likely people will be using what is called the HAPTIX devise within four years. The Utah team is eligible for up $4.4 million dollars over five years from DARPA.

Bob Nelson is a graduate of the University of Utah with a BA in mass communications. He began his radio career at KUER in 1978 when it was still in Kingsbury Hall. That’s also where he met his wife, Maria Shilaos, in 1981. Bob left KUER for commercial radio where he worked for 25 years, and he is thrilled to be back at KUER. Bob and his family are part of an explorer group, fondly known as The Hordes and Masses, which has been seeking out ghost towns and little-known places in Utah for more than twenty years.
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