A team of roboticists is working on a way to help amputees.
Ten to 20 percent of the steps we take every day are on noncompliant surfaces, meaning not flat. When walking on a sidewalk and changing to a different surface like grass or gravel, a person’s ankle and leg adapt. For people with lower limb prosthetics, this subtle change can be difficult. Twenty percent of the two million people in the U.S. with lower limb prosthetics have fallen when walking on a different surface. Roboticists Panos Artemiadis and Tom Sugar have been awarded a $1 million grant to develop a “smart ankle” over three years. The two have been working on lower limb prosthetics for years, attaching springs to prototypes to help push a person’s foot and leg forward as the ankle rolls when walking. The “smart” technology their team will enact will be sensors that measure muscle activity. The muscles will dictate how the prosthetic moves, hopefully giving the artificial ankle a more natural feel, allowing people with lower limb amputations to easily walk on any surface.