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New prosthetic gives more natural gait

NASHVILLE, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Researchers at Vanderbilt University say a new bionic prosthetic leg will allow amputees to walk with a gait much closer to natural.

The lower-limb prosthetic uses advances in computer, sensor, electric motor and battery technology to provide powered knee and ankle joints that operate in unison, a university release said Thursday.

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Sensors that monitor its user's motion and microprocessors can predict what the person is trying to do and operate the device in ways that facilitate natural movements, the researchers said.

"With our latest model, we have validated our hypothesis that the right technology was available to make a lower-limb prosthetic with powered knee and ankle joints," engineering professor Michael Goldfarb said. "Our device illustrates the progress we are making at integrating man and machine."

The device weighs about 9 pounds, less than most human lower legs, and can operate for three days of normal activity on a single charge.

Craig Hutto, a 23-year-old amputee who has helped in testing the leg, said the new prosthetic is a major improvement over existing technology.

"When it's working, it's totally different from my current prosthetic," Hutto said. "A passive leg is always a step behind me. The Vanderbilt leg is only a split-second behind."

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