- Corey Protin/Business Insider
Johnny Matheny is a self-proclaimed “backwoods country hillbilly” from West Virginia who has the world’s most advanced prosthetic arm.
“Now they tell me that I am the most technically advanced man in the robotics field to this day,” Matheny says, in a new video profile for the “Superhuman” series at FreeThink.
How he ended up with that title is an interesting story.
In 2005, Matheny was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent six surgeries and 39 radiation treatments but the disease remained, so his doctor said they would have to amputate his left arm.
The timing was coincidental: In 2006, the military’s research and development arm, DARPA, launched an initiative to revolutionize prosthetics. It was around that time that Matheny was introduced to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, one of the recipients of DOD funds.
Researchers were able to build a modular prosthetic limb – an incredibly advanced arm that looks, feels, and acts just like the real thing. Unlike regular prosthetics, this one is controlled by Matheny’s mind.
“When you think about something, the brain, when it sends it down the nerves, it’s a minute electrical charge,” Matheny told Business Insider at a DARPA event in May. He explained that bands wrapped around his upper arm capture those brain signals and then send those charges down to the arm, telling it what he wants to do.
Check out his full story, in this video from FreeThink: