Researchers develop prosthetic ankle that can ‘see’

Researchers at Michigan Technological University have developed a prosthetic ankle that can improve users’ gait. They are now enhancing the design to improve users’ sight.

The design builds from a previous prototype, which offered natural range of motion, and adds a low-cost, artificial vision system, according to a university press release.

“The camera identif[ies] the profile of the ground [and] the computer knows where the next footstep will be, based on how the user is moving the leg,” Mo Rastgaar, PhD, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the university, stated in the release. “Then, the computer analyzes the information from the camera and applies the correct angle and stiffness to the ankle, just as you would with your biological foot and ankle.”

A computer-controlled actuator system designed by a team at Michigan Technological University operates a camera that helps a robotic ankle “see” what is ahead.

Source: Michigan Technology University


The design also features a lightweight, computer-controlled actuator, which can precisely adjust the position of the ankle, regardless of what action the user is performing.

Because the foot is moved lines similar to bicycle brake cables, the actuator does not need to be mounted on the prosthesis. It can be carried in a pocket or small pouch. Research for the device is being partially funded by a 5-year Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation. A provisional patent has been issued.

The researchers plan to continue developing the ankle, Rastgaar said, hoping it will soon make its way out of the lab and into clinical use. 

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