Open Source Low-Cost, Portable and High-Performance Bionic Leg

By on June 13, 2019
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A new open-source, artificially intelligent prosthetic leg designed by researchers at the University of Michigan and Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is now available to the scientific community. As an open-source project, anyone can contribute to improving the leg’s design and function.

Although the designs and code are free, the leg is still a high-end, state-of-the-art prosthetic, according to the researchers. It’s built around a plug-and-play architecture that will let scientists and biomedical engineers avoid research-and-development costs in the millions of dollars and immediately begin testing on prosthetics for the knee and ankle. It effectively lowers the barriers to entry for researchers.

Researchers who work directly with people with disabilities often have to build their own robotic legs. Instead of starting from scratch, researchers can take this common platform and, after some assembly, begin working on better ways to help people with mobility impairments. The common platform also lets engineers conduct direct comparisons of control algorithms, which researchers can then iterate and build upon.

The key to making it work, then, is AI. The Raspberry Pi-powered AI-based control uses a combination of muscle contraction signals and sensor data from within the bionic leg to guess what a user is going to do next, and responds accordingly.

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