OffBeat

How the shift to robotic limbs is making walking a lot easier for amputees

In 2005, a shark attack cost Craig Hutto his leg. Years later, prosthetics research is giving him a new one.

Hutt’s prosthetic leg, developed by researchers at Vanderbilt University, features a motorized knee and ankle, which work together to help Hutto walk. The leg comes with built-in sensors, which predict Hutto’s movements and adjust for specific actions  — like walking, standing, and climbing stairs.

“Effectively, the motors are the equivalent of the muscles, and the sensors are the equivalent of the same sensors that we have in a healthy limb,” Vanderbilt University professor Michael Goldfarb says in the video above.

That’s a big deal, considering that one of the biggest problems with a conventional prosthesis is that it often takes a lot energy just to move them around.

“When people wear prosthetics, they are providing all the power themselves and sort of dragging this leg around,”  John Simon, an investor at Sigma Prime Ventures told us back in May.

Fixing this issue is one of the major selling points of not only the Vanderbilt system but also the BiOM prosthetic ankle system, which, by powering itself, makes life a whole lot easier for its wearer.

The Vanderbilt researchers’ technology has already been licensed by prosthetic solutions company Freedom Innovations, which plans to manufacture the technology commercially in the coming months.

On a related note, researchers at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) recently showed off how bionic limbs can be controlled using just the wearers’ minds.