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This smart prosthetic ankle fits rough terrain

Prosthetic limbs improve and are more personalized, but if they are useful, they are still far from reality. This new prosthesis is a little closer than the others: it moves by itself, adapting to the user's gait and the surface on which it lands.

Your ankle does a lot of work when you walk: by lifting your toe so you do not scratch it on the floor, controlling the inclination of your foot to minimize the shock when it lands or adjusting your weight, while conforming to the bumps and other irregularities that he encounters. Few dentures attempt to duplicate these movements, which means that all this work is done in a more basic way, such as bending a spring or compressing the padding.

But this ankle prototype of Michael Goldfarb, professor of mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt, goes much further than the passive absorption of shocks. Inside the seal are a motor and an actuator, controlled by a chip that detects and classifies the movement and determines the appearance of each step.

"This camera first adapts to what surrounds it," said Goldfarb in a video documenting the prosthesis.

"You can climb slopes, go downhill, climb stairs and down stairs, and the device understands what you are doing and is working as it should," he said in a statement. press release from the university.

When he feels that the foot has raised for a step, he can lift the toe to keep him clear, also exposing the heel so that when the limb goes down, he can roll in the next step . And by reading the pressure both from above (indicating how the person uses that foot) and down (indicating the slope and irregularities of the surface), she can make this walk look more like a natural pressure.

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A veteran of many prostheses, Mike Sasser, tested the device and had good things to say: "I tried hydraulic dowels that did not have microprocessors, and they were clumsy, cumbersome and ruthless to an active person. This is not it. "

At present, the device is still connected to a lab and operates with a wired power supply, which is not very practical if someone wants to go for a walk. But if the join works as expected, as it seems to be the case, the feed is secondary. The plan is to market the prosthesis in the next two years once everything is included. You can learn a little more about Goldfarb's research at the Center for Intelligent Mechatronics.