Man Without Arms Operates the First Set of Modular Prosthetic Limbs That Move Independently With His Thoughts

Leslie (“Les”) Baugh, a former electrician in Colorado, who lost both of his arms during an accident 40 years ago, was the first person ever to wear and operate a set of prosthetic limbs that operate bilaterally with his thoughts. The unique limbs were created by a team at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), who fitted Les for the brace and socket before having him work with a virtual reality system (VRS). The VRS then learned Les’ movements and applied the information to the prosthetics so that they would move with intuitive thought control. Mike McLoughlin of APL’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics looks at this history-making event as the first step in advancing the progress on prosthetic limbs.

I think we’re just getting started at this point. It’s like the early days of the internet, there’s just a tremendous amount of potential ahead of us and we just started down this road and I think the next 5, 10 years are going to bring some really phenomenal advancements.

Once the limbs were in place, the team found that Les adapted beautifully to them.

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. …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.

Simply amazing.

via Josh Ellingson

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.