How We Developed the LUKE Arm Interface
Imagine a state-of-the-art prosthetic limb designed to quickly integrate with your own body, a limb that could give you the capability to grasp a small paintbrush or a pair of chopsticks. Now imagine that limb with a traditional prosthetic socket interface, one that uses friction and pressure to secure it, compromising its function and comfort. This was the problem faced by the developers of the LUKE (Life Under Kinetic Evolution) Arm. The LUKE arm needed an interface as elegant as its design. That’s where we came in.
Approved by the FDA in 2014 and in development for nearly a decade, the revolutionary Luke Arm was designed by Segway creator Dean Kamen and his company, DEKA. While the device’s intuitive nature and ability to execute extremely fine and flexible movements is groundbreaking, the challenge of human integration presented its own unique challenges. Traditional socket designs act more as a “cup” to hold the limb allowing the bone and surrounding tissue to move inside it. The result of this “disconnect” is the loss of skeletal integrity with much-wasted motion, not to mention the discomfort caused by constant friction. How would the LUKE interface replicate the skeletal motion and nearly seamless extension needed to work this highly advanced prosthetic device?
Dean Kamen and his team turned to biodesigns of Southern California and Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics, Inc. of Manchester, NH to develop the perfect interface and fit for the LUKE arm. The team started with the revolutionary High-Fidelity Interface designed by Randy Alley, CEO of biodesigns. The High-Fidelity Interface addressed the challenge posed by traditional socket interfaces with a unique compression and release design made up of “struts” alternating with open areas, allowing soft tissue to be gradually compressed away from the bone, greatly improving the structural integration of the prosthesis. The High-Fidelity Interface and its more efficient design also promised to be a far more comfortable solution for users. President Matt Albuquerque of Next Step and his team conducted an exhaustive testing phase with patient volunteers using the LUKE Arm with the High-Fidelity interface to carefully fine-tune comfort, fit and function, using their findings to suggest fine modifications of the interface’s design. After years of collaborative work, the result is an interface that delivers on the promise of the LUKE Arm to its users.
The LUKE Arm will be available for three levels of attachment – lower arm or trans-radial, mid-arm or trans-humeral, and shoulder disarticulation (this level does not use the High-Fidelity Interface). The LUKE Arm is currently available to some disabled veterans through the Veterans Administration (VA), and to all eligible non-VA candidates.