Robotic Ankle First Such Powered Prosthesis

A powered robotic ankle developed by the biomechatronics group at MIT's Media Lab was demonstrated by Hugh Herr, lab director, earlier this week. Herr wore the device on his right leg to demonstrate; he lost both his legs below the knee in a 1982 rock-climbing accident. This may be the world's first powered ankle prosthesis.


(World's first robotic powered ankle)

The powered robotic ankle is a biomimetic device; it imitates the energy storage performed by a living human ankle. When we walk, ligaments and tendons store energy as we move into a step; the same energy is released as we pass over that leg, moving forward. The robotic ankle contains a set of springs and a small, battery-powered motor. (See a detailed drawing of the powered robotic ankle.)

The energy-storage is similar to regenerative breaking used in hybrid cars; the new robotic ankle prosthesis is about twenty percent more efficient than previous designs.

"This is the first prosthesis that allows for a humanlike gait," said Herr. "It's strong enough to push my body forward and to propel me up stairs."

The team hopes to have a commercial version available by 2008. The device has been tested on able-bodied people in partnership with the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, as part of the Military Amputee Research Program. In tests, the robotic ankle does indeed appear to match the power of a normal ankle in walking.

Take a look at this related story describing how a Robotic Ankle Exoskeleton Helps Users Regain Limb Function. A different approach is used in the AKROD v2 - Active Knee Rehabilitation Device .

Via Technology Review.

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