A major breakthrough was made by the company Ossur in the field of robotics and advanced prosthetics. They have designed bionic legs, “Proprio Foot” that can be controlled by the brain completely. It requires no complex implantations or sensors to be inserted in the brain. This feature marks off Proprio Foot from others available in the market.
Ossur unveiled its Implanted Myoelectric Sensor (IMES) technology at an event in Copenhagen. The Proprio is essentially a wearable robot, with algorithms and sensors that automatically adjust the angle of the foot during different points in its wearer’s stride.
Ossur’s Proprio Foot have completed their in-house tests and are ready to move ahead. During the 14-month testing period, the company’s two “first-in-man” subjects have worn the devices as their sole prostheses.
Unlike the normal prosthetic limbs available, Proprio Foot requires a simple and minimal surgery to implant the sensors. According to Thorvaldur Ingvarsson, an orthopedic surgeon and head of R&D at Ossur, the procedure took 15 minutes. Each sensor required a single-centimeter-long incision. The tiny sensors (3 millimeters-by-80 millimeters) are powered by magnetic coils embedded in the socket. The socket is a cushioned, hollow component that fits over a user’s residual limb, and connects to the prosthesis.
As the electrical impulse produced in the brain to move one’s leg reaches the base of the leg, a pair of sensors embedded in the muscle tissue connects the neural dots. Thereon, wirelessly transmits that signal to the Proprio Foot. There is no lag between intention and action as the command reaches the foot before the residual muscles actually contract.
Since there are no integrated batteries to deal with, there’s no need to replace the sensors (unless they fail for other reasons). “We believe this is a lifelong sensor,” says Ingvarsson.
Proprio Foot once starts its production, will be of great help and can restore confidence back in people who have lost their leg. Gudmundur Olafsson had his lower leg amputated due to delayed causality of an accident he met in his childhood in Iceland.
With Proprio Foot Olafsson is able to gain back his leg (artificial) and is now able to walk by himself. He can move his ankle by the thought of it. While talking about his experience with Proprio Foot he praised the way in which Proprio Foot redistributes the weight of the user, which is a major problem with lower limb amputations.
Olafsson further exclaimed, “You have to learn how to use those muscles again.”
Brain-controlled prosthetic limbs are to enable amputees in a significant way, not just by allowing them to walk, but walk with confidence.