This smart prosthetic ankle is as close as it gets to the real thing

The prosthetic is still lab-bound, but the professor who built it, aims to commercialize it soon.

Over the years, we have seen the way technology used in prosthetics has evolved. They are more personalised, and pay a lot more attention to user comfort. However, they are still quite distant from the real thing.

Michael Goldfarb, a mechanical engineering professor at Vanderbilt, is trying to solve this problem. He has developed a new prosthetic ankle, which aims to get as close to the real limb as it can. It moves on its own, adapts to its user’s gait and the surface on which it lands.

We don’t realise in our daily movement, how much work our ankle puts in every time we walk. Lifting our toes so that we don’t bang them along the ground, adjusting all the weight, and all this work doubled, when the surface is uneven or irregular.

Now, in most prosthetics, these movements are achieved with the help of a spring or compression of padding.

But the prototype ankle we are talking about today, goes a step farther, with the use of a motor and actuator inside the joint, all of which is controlled by a chip. This chip senses and classifies motion and determines how each step should look.

“You can walk up slopes, down slopes, up stairs and down stairs, and the device figures out what you’re doing and functions the way it should,” Goldfarb said in a release from the university.

As of now, this prototype is still bound to the labs and runs on corded power. The professor is aiming to perfect the joint, once that is done, powering it cord-lessly doesn’t seem like a task. Goldfarb is hoping to to commercialize the product in the next couple of years.