Jose Contreras-Vidal, an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Maryland, and his team have created a non-invasive, sensor-lined cap that forms a "brain-computer interface" that one day could control computers, robotic prosthetic limbs, motorized wheelchairs and even digital avatars. Learn more in this Discovery.
Credit: John Consoli, University of Maryland
Dr. Mark Humayun, a retinal surgeon and biomedical engineer at Doheny Eye Institute in Los Angeles, is developing an artificial retina that may one day restore sight to blind persons. The artificial retina device consists of a camera built in to a pair of glasses that sends radio signals to a tiny chip in the back of the retina. The chip, small enough to fit on a finger tip, is implanted surgically and stimulates nerves that lead to the vision center of the brain. Twenty patients have undergone surgery and use the experimental device. Find out more in this Science Nation video.
Credit: Science Nation, National Science Foundation
Researchers have developed an experimental tongue-based system that may allow individuals with debilitating disabilities to control wheelchairs, computers and other devices with relative ease and no sophistication. Read more in this news release.
Credit: Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek
The mission of the Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation of NSF's Directorate for Engineering is to fund fundamental research and education in support of the Foundation's strategic goals directed at advances in the disciplines of civil, mechanical, industrial and manufacturing engineering, and materials design. In addition, the division has a focus on the reduction of risks and damage resulting from earthquakes and other natural and technological hazards.
Stanford researchers have developed an ultrasensitive, highly flexible, electronic sensor that can feel a touch as light as an alighting fly. Manufactured in large sheets, the sensors could be used in artificial electronic skin for prosthetic limbs.
A "metal foam" that has a similar elasticity to bone could mean a new generation of biomedical implants that would avoid bone rejection that often results from more rigid implant materials, such as titanium.
Achieving superhuman vision, like the Bionic Woman's, could be as easy as popping in a contact lens.
January 23, 2012
Bionic Leg Makes Amputee Faster on His Feet
This powered prosthetic is better at anticipating the next move
Craig Hutto considers himself part bionic man. In 2005, doctors amputated his leg after a shark attacked him during a fishing trip off the Florida Gulf Coast.
"I was 16 years old at the time," recalls Hutto. "My brother heard me yell: 'What was that?' He saw something take me under; he saw the back fin of the shark. There was so much tissue damage and so much flesh gone that it was just irreparable."
Two years later and game for a challenge, Hutto became the test pilot for a unique and powerful new prosthetic leg being developed by mechanical engineer Michael Goldfarb and his team at Vanderbilt University. The effort was kick-started by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
"We were able to develop an early prototype that demonstrated that you could have a leg that was light enough and could deliver biomechanical levels of torque and power," says Goldfarb.
Version 1.0 evolved into a more streamlined version 2.0, which is computer controlled, with advanced range of motion in the joints. Version 2.0 was funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institutes of Health.
"This is a battery that powers everything," explains Goldfarb, holding up the latest version and pointing to the various components. "You have a motor that drives the knee joint, another motor that drives the ankle joint. There is a whole computer board that essentially tells the motors what to do with the joints."
In Goldfarb's lab, Hutto straps on the prosthetic and "walks the walk" on a treadmill--each step recorded by an array of cameras to help engineers improve the mechanics, electronics and software.
Brian Lawson, a mechanical engineer and member of Goldfarb's team, says what makes this prosthetic stand out is the on-board computer. "What I think makes people think that it's bionic is the computing capability that infers what the user is trying to do and works synergistically with the user to provide the torque at the right time."
The prosthetic leg is designed to respond to cues from the wearer. For example, when Hutto goes from walking to climbing stairs, he gives a signal and the bionic leg responds. "I kind of kick my thigh back just a little bit," says Hutto, "and just that little movement tells it, 'Hey you're about to walk upstairs,' and it switches mode into the stair ascent."
To reduce the risk of injury, Goldfarb's team has intentionally programmed a slight delay into the leg's computer to make sure the wearer and the prosthetic stay in perfect step with each other, and to make walking easier. "The leg can move with you," says Goldfarb.
Hutto confirms it takes less effort to walk compared to the prosthetic he currently wears. "With my leg, it's harder because it's always a step behind. I'm having to use my hip to swing my leg through, whereas the Vanderbilt Powered Prosthetic, when it toes off, the power swings the leg through and so I'm not having to use my hip to swing it through."
Goldfarb says after years of work, they have sold their technology to a major prosthetic manufacturer. "We'll know in the next few years if these are going to come onto the market and really gain a lot of traction," he says.
Meanwhile, Hutto, inspired by the three nurses who saved him from bleeding to death, is studying to become a nurse and looking forward to one day walking tall on the bionic leg that he helped make a reality.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.