## Groundbreaking Robotic Ankle Assists Amputees in Balance Maintenance
A significant advancement in prosthetics has been achieved by researchers at North Carolina State University. They have created a robotic prosthetic ankle that increases stability for individuals with lower limb amputations. This cutting-edge technology uses electromyographic sensors to understand the wearer’s intended movements, thereby aiding in balance maintenance.
The Difficulty of Balance Maintenance
Balance maintenance is the complex and often unconscious activity our leg muscles perform to keep us upright and balanced. This is a never-ending process, even when we are stationary. Attaining this level of control has been a substantial hurdle for lower limb amputees, even with the help of robotic prostheses.
Helen Huang, one of the creators of this new technology, explains that our bodies are consistently making adjustments to keep us stable. For instance, if someone jostles us while we are queueing, our legs execute a variety of movements that we may not even be conscious of to keep us upright. The new robotic ankle aims to mimic this natural response.
The Robotic Ankle at Work
Five volunteers who had previously had a below-knee amputation on one leg were used by the researchers to test their device. The sensors were positioned over the muscles at the location of the amputation. When a participant contemplates moving the amputated limb, this triggers electrical signals through the remaining muscle in the lower limb. These signals are then captured by the sensors and transformed into instructions for the prosthetic device.
The volunteers were exposed to a pre-determined disturbance that could upset their balance, to assess how the robotic ankle assisted them in maintaining balance. The outcomes were promising, with the robotic prototype enabling participants to alter their balance maintenance strategy.
This pioneering technology represents a substantial leap forward in prosthetics, providing lower limb amputees with an opportunity for enhanced balance and stability. The robotic ankle, which responds to EMG signals, allows users to revert to their natural response for maintaining stability, a function that has been difficult to reproduce in earlier prosthetic devices.
Q: What does balance maintenance mean?
A: Balance maintenance refers to the complex and often unconscious activities our leg muscles perform to keep us upright and balanced.
Q: How does the robotic ankle function?
A: The robotic ankle operates using electromyographic sensors positioned on the leftover limb muscles. When the wearer contemplates moving the amputated limb, these sensors capture electrical signals and convert these signals into instructions for the prosthetic device.
Q: How was the robotic ankle tested?
A: The robotic ankle was tested by the researchers using five volunteers who had previously had a below-knee amputation on one leg. The volunteers were exposed to a pre-determined disturbance that could upset their balance, to assess how the robotic ankle assisted them in maintaining balance.
Q: What are the advantages of this innovative technology?
A: The robotic ankle allows lower limb amputees to revert to their natural response for maintaining stability, which has been difficult to reproduce in earlier prosthetic devices. This can significantly enhance their balance and stability.