The DEKA Arm: New inventions inspired by ‘Star Wars’

I speak often about Star Wars not just because it is a cool story or that society has a need for escapism but that it has entered the realm of myth which will affect human civilization for millenniums going forward. Star Wars has more power than all the stories of the King Author legends, all the tribulations of Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha, the Greek gods of Athens or the gods of Norse legend. Star Wars has had such an impact on global youth from 1977 that we are now seeing the effects of a new generation of invention which is only just now manifesting. A few months ago I told the story of Leia Display Systems, CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW. That communication device is directly influenced by Star Wars. It is a case where the mind of invention desires to make mythology into reality. With just six films and a handful of television shows accompanied by books and comics, Star Wars over the last 30 years has had a major impact on world culture. And now, under Disney—it will become much more pronounced.  I predict within ten years that Star Wars will inspire changes in religion, philosophy, education, science, politics, and every creative endeavor from architecture to engineering. Star Wars is reaching a critical mass in its mythological development that is driving us all in a new direction.

Yet again, Star Wars has inspired a new invention, this time a device for amputees. Anyone who knows the Star Wars films understands that both Anakin and his son Luke Skywalker both had to make use of robotic arms and hands to overcome handicaps.   One of the central themes of the films are the reasons that individuals become mechanical—whether literally—biologically, or metaphorically by surrendering individual will to institutional necessity. Star Wars tackles a lot of deep issues including handicaps—and this has driven many science obsessed minds to solving these problems in the real world. CNN is among the many media outlets covering the results of this breakthrough endeavor.

(CNN) — Amputees will soon get help from a groundbreaking bionic arm, thanks to the inventor of the Segway and a little inspiration from “Star Wars.”

After almost eight years of research and testing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the DEKA arm, a prosthetic controlled by signals from the brain. Unlike most current prostheses, the DEKA can perform such delicate tasks as zipping up a coat, unlocking a door with a key or handling an egg without breaking it.

Funded by DARPA, the research branch of the Pentagon, the DEKA project was overseen by Dean Kamen, who invented the Segway personal vehicle. Kamen nicknamed the DEKA arm “Luke” after Luke Skywalker, the “Star Wars” hero who was fitted for a prosthetic after losing his right hand in a light-saber duel with Darth Vader.

The FDA is calling the device the first prosthetic arm that can perform multiple, simultaneous movements via electromyogram electrodes, which detect electrical signals from the contraction of muscles close to where the prosthesis is attached.

I see this device as a rather primitive version of a coming reality that is before us all. It is only a matter of a few years where there will be robots driven by complicated processors that can articulate movement as well as these prosthetic arms. Humans will simply grow new body parts in the future. But what is driving this science is the mythology of Star Wars. More and more we are seeing inventions dedicated to the inventor’s favorite film—often Star Wars and the frequency level is increasing.

When I speak so often about the miracle of Fantasy Flight Games X-Wing Miniatures table top game I am not just talking about a neat game—but a mythology that is boiling over into other aspects of culture where more inventive activity will transpire. My excitement about these events is that there is a creation of new things that will pave the way for a new kind of renaissance in human thinking. For instance, it does no good to have a great economic system like capitalism if philosophically society is following Immanuel Kant and is held by back religiously by a Roman interpretation of Christianity calling for sacrifice and altruism as the building blocks of civilization. Star Wars deals with these problems in a modern way that has more relevance. Adversely, it does no good to give away ourselves in sacrifice if nobody makes anything. In Star Wars, without Han Solo—the equivocal capitalist—Star Wars would fall apart. In fact, of the two most popular Star Wars characters are Han Solo and Boba Fett—both capitalists who are the most valued characters. The self-sacrifice of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Senator Amidala, or even Obi Wan Kenobi are not as respected. Fans of the movies generally feel reverence for these characters, but they don’t respect them in the same way. This is an important distinction that sets Star Wars apart from other entertainment venues.

I read the early script of Star Wars as George Lucas intended it, and let me tell you—it sucks—“may the force of others be with you.” Yuck. Lucas needed the hot rod hero of Han Solo to give context to Star Wars—and to his own life. After all, here was a deeply concerned young hippie from the USC film program learning about the values of socialism in college who became one of the biggest and richest capitalists on planet earth. There is a lot of Han Solo in George Lucas—more than he’d like to admit. He wanted to think of himself as Luke Skywalker, but deep down inside, Lucas is still the race car driver from Modesto, California who wanted to grow up to be an anthropologist. So he took those two traits and put them together in the character played by Harrison Ford—Indiana Jones and science was changed forever for all different reasons. But Lucas was rich, and Star Wars to the business world is about making money by selling mythology to a world hungry for every morsel of value enshrined from it. Star Wars cannot be described by generalizations—because it is concerned with deep-seated primordial necessity.

Inventions dedicated to Star Wars will explode under the new Disney ownership and let me say—I am extremely happy about it. This new prosthetic arm is just the tip of the iceberg. I can see it as clearly as the words on this page. The next 50 years of human evolution will be among the most exciting in all history—and Star Wars will be a tremendous part of it—it will touch even casual fans in ways they cannot possibly imagine.

For those who are looking around and wondering if there is any hope……………there is. It’s not just in invention that Star Wars is reshaping the way we see the world. I think philosophy will be far more impacted than even science, invention and religion will mold itself around these new philosophies introduced by Star Wars. Those philosophies will not be limited the way humans have confined themselves under Kant, or Marx, but will prosper in a ways that Aristotle always intended. There is real power in the teachings of Yoda that extend well beyond conventional science fiction, and those lessons have raised a new generation who thinks nothing of naming their new prosthetic arm after Luke Skywalker. Behind these new ideas are parades of new inventions that will flood the marketplace with a new kind of human being—who have been taught to be a little bit like Han Solo, a bit like Luke Skywalker, wise like Ben Kenobi and even efficient like Darth Vader.   It is OK to invent things that help all of society, and it is OK to make money at it. George Lucas did both with Star Wars, and all those who have been inspired by it have learned to walk that balance leading to a prosperous future in more ways than one. That future is an exciting one.

Rich Hoffman


4 thoughts on “The DEKA Arm: New inventions inspired by ‘Star Wars’

  1. Star Wars has such power, I think, because the universe was allowed to be expanded on by fans (as long as they didn’t touch the original works). It was created by, and belonged to the fans. Now it belongs to Disney and their selected people, who may be fans themselves, but are beholden to groupthink and a certain perscribed vision. Much like you said about mythology coming under authoritarian control


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