Johnny Metheny may not be the world’s first bionic man, but he is the very first person to test out an artificial limb that is completely controlled by the human brain. The Modular Prosthetic Limb is a cutting-edge bionic arm funded in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). This bionic arm resembles the science fiction of Star Wars since Luke Skywalker had his hand chopped off by Darth Vader only to have it replaced with a robotic replacement.
Metheny told Fox 35 that he originally lost his arm due to a fast-moving cancer that started as a protrusion on his left hand. Only four other people had suffered from similar cancers, so the Florida man had to decide whether to amputate his arm at the elbow.
“You’re either going to have to lose your limb or you’re going to die. That was basically a no-brainer, ya know, see ya!” said Metheny.
After being cancer free for two years, the West Virginia native decided to become a guinea pig for the Department of Defense by testing out new technology being developed at the Johns Hopkins University Medical labs. The bionic arm is being developed to help injured U.S. soldiers who desire to continue serving in the military.
The Modular Prosthetic Limb is a bionic arm that is attached to a post implanted into the bones of the human being. Scientists attached nerves from his flesh to the metal and electronics instead. In addition to the bionic arm receiving direct nerve impulses from his brain, Metheny wears two armbands around his bicep which senses movement in his muscles.
“And it (the band) Bluetooths it to the elbow which then Wi-Fis it down to the computer in the hand,” he said. “This is my arm. Anybody asks, it’s my arm.”
What’s more, this bionic arm will eventually restore the ability to have a sense of touch. Future versions of the Modular Prosthetic Limb will allow the Florida man to feel items in the hand, heat, cold, and even pain. But even without having the sense of touch, Metheny is able to play the song Amazing Grace on the piano.
Unlike Star Wars, this story may not have the best ending, since the bionic man may eventually have to give his arm back. Metheny is just a test subject for the Modular Prosthetic Limb prototype. However, the man desires to help others and he has launched a non-profit called Star Fish Prosthetics, which is designed to help other amputees who desire to own a mind-controlled prosthetic.