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BME Doctoral Student Talks About Bionic Arm on 60 Minutes

Jon Kuniholm lost part of his right arm as the result of a roadside bombing in Iraq in 2005. Since that time, the retired Marine Corps officer has been researching new designs for functional limb prostheses as a doctoral student in biomedical engineering at the Pratt School of Engineering.

As a vet and as a researcher -- he’s also co-founder of a company working on arm prostheses -- he was interviewed recently by the CBS program 60 Minutes about the latest breakthroughs in creating a “bionic” arm.

The DEKA arm is the result of a $100 million U.S. Army research project known as “Revolutionizing Prosthetics.” In simple terms, the movements of the arm, hand or fingers are controlled by the nerves in the remaining portion of the limb that comes into contact with the prosthesis.

During the interview, Kuniholm was asked by 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley, what it was like using the device.

"I'm imagining performing movements with my right hand, and when I do that I am moving the muscles that remain here in my arm. When those muscles move they make little electrical impulses that we can detect with these electrodes," Kuniholm said.

He controls a robotic arm simply by thinking about moving his own hand that no longer exists.

Asked how much training is involved to learn how to move the hand, Kuniholm told Pelley, "I'm not really learning, so much as the computer is. I'm doing what I imagine I'd like to do. And we've taught the computer to interpret the signals and do what it is."

Watch the complete 60 Minutes piece.