Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee have paired both a powered knee and ankle, working in tandem, to create a bionic limb that is just about as good as the original. It's the first prosthetic limb to use said motorized joints in conjunction, and the results are impressive to see in motion.
The Vanderbilt leg is seen above worn by Craig Hutto, left, and Professor Michael Goldfarb, who is leading the team at VU. The leg itself has been in development for always seven years now, and packs in quite a bit of tech.
The device uses the latest advances in computer, sensor, electric motor and battery technology to give it bionic capabilities: It is the first prosthetic with powered knee and ankle joints that operate in unison. It comes equipped with sensors that monitor its user's motion. It has microprocessors programmed to use this data to predict what the person is trying to do and operate the device in ways that facilitate these movements.
From the sounds of it this cocktail of sensors does wonders in improving the Vanderbilt leg's response time, so much so that walking is near natural: "When it's working, it's totally different from my current prosthetic," Craig Hutto, 23 years old and tester of the leg for several years, told the university's news site. "A passive leg is always a step behind me. The Vanderbilt leg is only a split-second behind."
A bionic leg also has a lot of other advantages over an non-motorized prosthetic, such as allowing the wearer to navigate slopes and inclines a little more easily — something Hutto says is "one of the hardest things" with a conventional leg — and lessens the effects of fatigue.
Seeing the leg really drives it home, though — check it out in motion in the video below.