Soon, bionic foot that closely mimics real human legs
Washington: Researchers are making an artificial foot that could make an amputee's walk in the park feel, well, like a walk in the park.
While most artificial feet and limbs do a pretty good job restoring mobility to people who have lost a leg, they have ways to go before they equal the intricacy of a natural gait.
As a result, over half of all amputees take a fall every year, compared to about one-third of people over 65.
In cooperation with a Mayo Clinic scientist, researchers at Michigan Technological University are taking a giant step toward solving the problem.
Mo Rastgaar, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and PhD student Evandro Ficanha are working on a microprocessor-controlled ankle-foot prosthesis that comes close to achieving the innate range of motion of this highly complex joint.
These computerized artificial legs have pressure-sensitive sensors on the bottom of the foot that detect how the amputee is walking. The sensors instantaneously send signals to a microprocessor, which in turn adjusts the prosthesis to make walking more natural.
Researchers have designed an ankle-foot that can move on two axes, incorporating a side-to-side roll as well as raising the toe up and down. And they moved the power and control mechanism up and away from the leg using a cable-driven mechanism. That lightens the prosthesis, making it much more comfortable and easy to use.
The cable that moves the prosthetic ankle-foot is similar to those used in bicycle brakes. It runs from the control box to the ankle mechanism and can turn the foot in almost any direction.
The study will be presented at the 2013 ASME Dynamic Systems and Control Conference, to be held at Stanford University.