Amputees often face several challenges even with powered prosthetic devices. The most primary and apparent is their bulkiness making them heavy. The need of the users can also not be interpreted by such devices unfortunately. For instance in case of an arm prosthetic, ideally joints are to be bended while doing certain activities, such as picking something up. The activation of the prosthetic arm’s motors has to match to match exactly when required, only then can a person wearing the prosthetic arm can experience a natural feel. Also, the need to fluid and efficient movement is a must too.
These issues, that a prosthetic arm or leg usually causes, seem to have been addressed by the researchers at the University of Utah. Their efforts to help the problem, has helped them create a prototype leg prosthesis which may be the answer to the challenges faced by an amputee. The reason being, this prosthetic leg that they have developed, unlike any other prosthetic leg can actually anticipate and respond to the users’ actions. This naturally makes the walking, a lot more natural; and in general ensures overall balance and manages the walking power required.
In addition to accelerometers and off- the- shelf gyroscopes, the device developed by the team uses torque sensors and bespoke force. With the help of artificial intelligence algorithms, the data received is evaluated by an on- board computer which ultimately helps in identifying the activity that is supposed to take place using the leg. Not only this, the person’s situation is also identified for instance whether the person is trying to climb the stairs or folding their legs and so on.
The device has demonstrated great performance in the early tests that were run. It was noted then that the user got a walking gait as less irritation was experienced by them to their stump. This was a new experience for the volunteers in the study. The volunteers also included elderly people who found that they were able to walk in a manner which the bulky conventional leg prostheses does not allow them to.
Nancy Lojas has a Pharmaceutical background. She is pursuing a Masters Degree from the University of Toronto and loves to write about research, discoveries & trends in the Healthcare sector.