io9 reports: [edited]
Until now, the only thought-controlled prosthetics available to amputees were bionic arms. But this leg will soon be available to the more than one million Americans with leg amputations. It was developed by lead scientist Levi Hargrove at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
The leg’s movements are controlled by a person’s original nerves, which are redirected to a small area of the thigh muscle. When these redirected nerves instruct the muscles to contract, sensors on the amputee’s leg detect tiny electrical signals from the muscles. These signals are then analysed by a specially-designed computer program which decodes the type of movement the patient is trying to perform (like moving the knee or ankle). It then sends these commands to the robotic leg.
“This new bionic leg features incredibly intelligent engineering,” said Hargrove in a RIC release. “It learns and performs activities unprecedented for any leg amputee, including seamless transitions between sitting, walking, ascending and descending stairs and ramps and repositioning the leg while seated.”