PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Alumni Hall at the University of Pittsburgh opened its doors for the White House Frontiers Conference on Thursday.
Among the guests was Nathan Copeland, of Dunbar, who is paralyzed from the chest down after a car accident 12 years ago.
Following brain surgery, Pitt and UPMC collaborated to produce a robotic arm which can be moved by his thoughts, and, for the first time, includes the sense of touch.
“We’re implanting electrodes, these little grids of electrodes, into the brain,” said Rober Gaunt, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation. “And using these devices, the person is able to reach out with the robotic arm, control the movement, grab objects. And not only that, we can generate sensations that feel like they come from his own hand.”
Nathan doesn’t expect the technology to be ready for him. He said he volunteered to help future generations.
“There’s already not a lot of people who can do it. So when they asked me, it was basically, why not? Why would I not do it? So eventually this will help tons of people. For now, I get memories, and I get to do cool stuff,” he said.
A crowd gathered on Fifth Avenue. What could better exemplify the importance of that technology, plus other exhibits here at Alumni Hall, than a visit from the President of the United States?
Led by a swarm of motorcycles, the presidential limo made the turn toward Alumni Hall, where Nathan Copeland met the president.
“And this sensation you receive while we’re shaking hands?” the president asked.
“Yeah,” Nathan responds. “Any time there’s work on the hands, I will receive it.”
Barack Obama has shaken many hands. But never like this.