THE BOT | PowerFoot BiOM
THE INDUSTRY | Medical prosthetics
THE PROBLEM | Heavy, inert prosthetic feet are hard to lift
THE SOLUTION | A powered robotic foot that pushes against the ground
LEARN MORE | iwalkpro.com
Wartime always propels prosthetics technology forward, says iWalk CEO Tim McCarthy" "During wartime, no president wants to be known as the one that didn't do anything for injured soldiers once they get back home."
So it's no surprise that after eight years of two wars, the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration have been pouring money into prosthetics research. One result is iWalk's PowerFoot BiOM, invented by the MIT Media Lab's Hugh Herr, himself a double amputee who uses the device on a daily basis.
"Many people with prosthetic limbs develop [injuries] in the lower back or in the hip joint, because the [intact limb] takes the brunt of the force," says McCarthy. "It's like you're always stepping in a hole, so every time you step, you're pulling the prosthetic limb out of the hole."
The PowerFoot combines sensors, motors, and springs to push back against the ground the same way a biological foot would, so that the wearer isn't using all her strength to lift it and put it back down. "When we put the device on users, they don't want to go back to the conventional technology," McCarthy says. "The first thing you hear is, 'I feel like I've got my ankle back.' "
The current model fits an adult male. Future iterations of the device will be fit for all body types, and eventually, for all types of limb pathologies, including supportive structures for intact limbs that have suffered paralysis.