A passive prosthetic leg, says 23-year-old amputee Craig Hutto, is always a step behind. But a new leg built by researchers at Vanderbilt University "is only a split-second behind."
Hutto, who is 6 feet 4 inches, has been testing the bionic leg for a good chunk of the seven-year research project at the school's Center for Intelligent Mechatronics. (Check out his crazy story about how a shark nearly tore off his leg when he was fishing in Florida at age 16.)
What sets the Vanderbilt leg apart from its predecessors is its use of recent advances in computer, sensor, electric motor, and battery tech to enable the prosthetic to be the first ever that powers knee and ankle joints in unison.
"We have validated our hypothesis that the right technology was available to make a lower-limb prosthetic with powered knee and ankle joints," says research head Michael Goldfarb, a professor of mechanical engineering, in a news release. "Our device illustrates the progress we are making in integrating man and machine."
The device weighs in at 9 pounds, which is actually less than most human lower legs. On one charge, it can operate at normal levels of activity for roughly three days. And it features an "anti-stumble" routine; if the leg senses that its user is starting to stumble, the leg lifts to avoid obstruction and plants on the floor to optimize balance.… Read more