The Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 team — an international collaboration led by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. — was honored with a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award at a ceremony Oct. 10, at the Hearst Tower in New York. The awards recognize innovators who improve lives and expand possibilities in the realms of science, technology, engineering and exploration.
"Popular Mechanics is devoted to recognizing innovations that re-imagine the role that technology and science play in our lives," said Jim Meigs, editor-in-chief of Popular Mechanics. "All of this year's Breakthrough Award winners do just that — and demonstrate how new discoveries and inventions can actually make the world a better place."
Earlier this year, the RP 2009 team, which is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), completed work on Proto 1, the first fully integrated prosthetic arm that can be controlled naturally and provide sensory feedback. The arm also allows for eight different kinds of movement — a level of control far beyond the current state of the art for prosthetic limbs. The Proto 2 limb system, unveiled and demonstrated in August at the DARPA Tech 2007 conference in Anaheim, Calif., boosts that number to 25, and has the strength and speed of movement approaching the capabilities of the human limb, combined with more than 80 individual sensory elements for feedback of touch, temperature and limb position.
"It's an honor to be associated with the RP 2009 team" says APL's Stuart Harshbarger, the team's project manager. "Across the board, the team continues to pull out all of the stops to meet highly aggressive milestones and exceed expectations."
In addition to the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough award, the RP 2009 team was a finalist for the DARPA Tech 2007 Director's Award for Significant Technical Achievement. "APL and DARPA are united in the mission to improve technology and quality of life for our injured warfighters," Harshbarger says. "A lot of people are working very hard to accomplish DARPA's vision of a system that approaches the natural appearance and control of the native limb. It remains a significant challenge, but our progress should give hope that the performance of the final RP 2009 limb will significantly improve the capabilities of upper extremity prosthetic limbs."
A complete report of the Breakthrough Awards will be published in the November 2007 issue of Popular Mechanics (on newsstands Oct. 16, 2007). High-resolution images and video stories of the winners will be available upon request and at http://www.popularmechanics.com.