Since 2000, more than 2,000 servicemembers have suffered amputated limbs. DARPA’s breakthrough research with advanced prosthetic limbs controlled by brain interfaces is well documented, but such research is currently limited to quadriplegics; practical applications of brain interfaces for amputees are still in the future. In contrast, nerve and muscle interfaces allow amputees to control advanced prosthetics in the near term. Recent demonstrations may give Wounded Warriors hope that they can soon take advantage of these breakthroughs.
DARPA’s Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET) program researched the long-term viability of brain interfaces and continues research to develop high-performance, reliable peripheral interfaces. These new peripheral interfaces use signals from nerves or muscles to both control prosthetics and to provide direct sensory feedback. Ongoing clinical trials present compelling examples of both interface types.