A Mind-Controlled Bionic Arm
Atom Limbs is building the human body 2.0.
It’s a robotics company that’s created a mind-controlled bionic arm.
• CNN described this arm as “like something out of space come to Earth.”
• 60 Minutes called it “amazingly human. A breakthrough.”
• And Quartz declared it “the most advanced robotic arm in the world.”
Last year, members of our research service, Private Market Profits, got an early look at Atom Limbs’ creation, and had the opportunity to invest in the company at a $10 million valuation.
Fast-forward to today — and the company has developed an updated version of its bionic arm, and its value has increased 4x. Now it's seeking additional capital to test this advanced prototype and gear up to bring its bionic arm to market in 2023.
Atom Limbs and its robotic arm — called the Atom Touch — have an interesting backstory. For years, researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) worked on an advanced prosthetic for wounded military veterans. (These are the folks who created the internet, GPS technology, and drones.)
To aid in the development, DARPA enlisted the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, and put more than $120 million into the project. Then, in 2018, with the technology nearly complete, both DARPA and Johns Hopkins needed help commercializing its robotic arm. And that’s where Atom Limbs entered the picture.
This company’s team has an extensive track record of bringing popular consumer products to the market. These include the first iPhone, the first iMac computer, and an early version of Tesla’s electric car.
But the Atom Touch has been created for the $800 billion U.S. physical disability market — specifically those who live life as an amputee.
For these people, lifetime medical costs can be more than half a million dollars. Existing prosthetics are painful and poorly designed. Most are meant to give the appearance of a functioning limb, but are relatively useless. Even the most “advanced” limbs on the market are bulky and powered by the body, severely limiting their potential.
Because of these limitations and drawbacks, amputees often choose not to wear them. Said one amputee, “Prosthetic arm technology is still so limited that I become more disabled when I wear one.”
The Atom Touch bionic arm can change all of this. Powered by mind control, it can mimic the intuitive movements of a natural limb. Individually dexterous fingers empower natural movement. And a simple thought is enough to make the arm grasp, grip, push, pull, curl, wave, write, or type. The Atom Touch is the only prosthetic hand in the world that allows individual finger movement.
So, how’s it work?
Traditionally, movement occurs when a person’s brain sends signals down their spinal cord and into the nerves of the corresponding muscle. When a person loses a limb, the nerves are still intact, but there’s nothing tangible to control.
Using a state-of-the-art bracelet that’s worn around the residual limb to capture and read these signals, the Atom Touch is able to move as intuitively as a natural limb.
As mentioned, Atom Limbs recently created an updated version of its Atom Touch device. This prototype has an upgraded control system, which is better at adapting to various context clues (e.g., environment, the user’s position, and the user’s motion). It is also much lighter and smaller than the original prototype.
Atom Limbs also created the world’s first apparel-based attachment in the form of a sleeve. This helps distribute weight while enabling a near full-range of motion.
Testing of this beta prototype will take place through 2022, and the company expects to bring its product to market in 2023. It will sell its arms through affordable subscription plans, which will reduce the upfront costs and cover ongoing upgrades, repairs, and replacements.
Doug’s 30-year industrial design career includes time with Apple, Intel, and Palm.
He started as a senior designer with Thomson Consumer Electronics. From there, he was an industrial design studio lead with IDEO, an award-winning global design company.
He then spent 12 years with Apple, serving as an industrial design manager and industrial design creative lead. Notably, he directed the design for the first iPhone, iPod, iPad, and MacBook.
More recently, Doug was Senior Director of Industrial Design with Palm, a computer software company. He then became Vice President of Industrial Design for Intel.
In addition to his role with Atom Limbs, he is an advisor for MirrorCache, an IT services company, and Human, a technology company focused on consumer electronics.
He earned a degree from the University of Cincinnati.
Eric joined Atom Limbs in 2021.
He began his career as a product design engineer with HAL Computer Systems, a computer manufacturer. From there, he was a mechanical design manager with Trimble Navigation, a company working on GPS technology.
After that, he became a product design manager with Compaq, a computer manufacturer. While there, he developed the company’s Presario laptop product line. From there, he began a 15-year career with Apple, working as a senior director of mobile product design. Notably, he managed Apple’s core hardware team of 180 engineers and led the architecture and design of the original MacBook.
More recently, Eric spent a year with HP, working on 3D scanning technology. He then co-founded a pair of computer software companies.
In addition to his role with Atom Limbs, he’s spent the past 17 years as a part-time professor at Santa Clara University, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Engineering Management.
Tyler is a serial entrepreneur with experience leading startups to successful “exits.”
He co-founded Bebo, a social media platform acquired by AOL for $850 million, and later acquired by Amazon. Prior to that, he founded Prime, a mobile app for personal healthcare records. Before that, he spent three years in the product division of Disqus, a blog comment hosting service.
Earlier in his career, Tyler owned Tyler and Techie, an IT services business. He started as Chief Technology Officer with Monica Marketing.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from St. Olaf College.
Erik has 35 years of experience in the medical, aerospace, and robotics industries. His expertise includes both R&D and product development.
Prior to joining Atom Limbs, he worked for Apple and Tesla. He also founded two medical device companies. Throughout his career, he’s been named on more than 120 patented products and technologies.
Erik holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.
A VC fund investing in early-stage startups.