The open-source, artificially intelligent prosthetic leg designed by researchers at the University of Michigan will be brought to the research market by Humotech, a Pittsburgh-based assistive technology company.
The goal of the collaboration is to speed the development of control software for robotic prosthetic legs, which have the potential to provide the power and natural gait of a human leg to prosthetic users.
In an effort to bring robotic assistance to workers, the elderly and more, a University of Michigan team is developing a new type of powered exoskeleton for lower limbs—funded by $1.7 million from the National Institutes of Health.
One in eight Americans faces a mobility disability, with serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs, but a robotic solution could be far less bulky than sci-fi’s full-body suits. The U-M team plans to develop a modular, powered exoskeleton system that could be used on one or multiple joints of the legs. The three-year project will first study workers who lift and lower objects and the elderly who have lost mobility with age. In future work, the team would like to include people with other disabilities.
“Imagine adding a small motor to a bicycle—the rider still pedals, but there’s that extra power to get up hills without breaking too much of a sweat,” said project lead Robert Gregg, member of the Robotics Institute and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.
The open-source project, launched publicly last year, is meant to ease the research of controls for prostheses by offering an accessible, comparable, and universal platform available to a broad array of scientists and engineers.
By tuning into a subset of brain waves, University of Michigan researchers have dramatically reduced the power requirements of neural interfaces while improving their accuracy. This discovery could lead to long-lasting brain implants that can both treat neurological diseases and enable mind-controlled prosthetics and machines.
The team, led by Cynthia Chestek, associate professor of biomedical engineering and core faculty at the Robotics Institute, estimated a 90% drop in power consumption of neural interfaces by utilizing their approach.
A new robotic prosthetic leg prototype offers a more natural gait while also being quieter and more energy efficient than other designs.
The key is the use of new small and powerful motors, originally designed for a robotic arm on the International Space Station. The streamlined design offers a free-swinging knee and regenerative braking, which charges the battery with energy captured when the foot hits the ground. This feature enables the leg to more than double a typical prosthetic user’s walking needs with one charge per day.