The Myo gesture control armband, which Technovelgy readers may recall reading about years ago, has just been integrated into an amazing prosthetic arm developed at Johns Hopkins University.
(Myo-controlled prosthetic arm at Johns Hopkins)
Amputee Johnny Matheny lost his arm to cancer in 2008. At the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Matheny was fitted with a prosthetic connected directly to the bone in his upper arm. The Johns Hopkins team then designed a robotic arm that can be controlled using Myo.
There are several means of controlling robotic prosthetics, but they broadly fall into two main categories: invasive and non-invasive. Invasive interfaces are generally connected directly to the patient's nerves. Non-invasive interfaces are placed on the skin, using the electricity running through muscles as the patient moves them to control the limb.
This is called electromyography, and it is how the Myo armband works. The user makes slight adjustments to the position of their arm, which can be calibrated and interpreted into commands for the armband. It was only a short leap from there to prosthetics. Rather than design their own interface, the Johns Hopkins team tapped into Myo for Matheny's arm.
Ian Banks mentions something similar in his 2004 novel The Algebraist in this passage about a muscle sensor interface:
The ship accelerated smoothly but moderately hard, creating a distant humming roar. Fassin had a little pad under his right forearm which sensed muscle movements there and adjusted the screen across from him - above from him, now, it felt, as the couch straightened out and the gee-suit supported him...
Earlier, in Harry Harrison's 1960 novel Deathworld, here's another reference to something similar to the Myo gesture control armband:
Here, take your left hand and grasp an imaginary gunbutt. Tense your trigger finger. Do you notice the pattern of the tendons in the wrist? Sensitive actuators touch the tendons in your right wrist. They ignore all patterns except the one that says hand ready to receive gun...
(Read more about Harry Harrison's power holster)