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New Robotic Prosthetic Leg Improves Gait

Posted by Bryan Potok on

Researchers at the University of Michigan's (U-M) Robotics Institute have developed a prototype for a new kind of robotic prosthetic leg. It has smaller but more powerful motors that encourage a more natural gait when worn.

 A prototype of a new robotic prosthetic leg improves gait.

With the improved motors—initially designed for a robotic arm on the International Space Station—this prototype is more efficient and quieter than other robotic leg designs.

Its other notable features include regenerative braking and a free-swinging knee.

Regenerative braking  

With regenerative brakes built into the design, the robotic leg can charge its battery using energy captured by the foot when it strikes the ground. This feature offers prosthetic users more than twofold their daily walking needs on a single charge.

Furthermore, this prototype produces more force even as it consumes only roughly half the battery power needed by most state-of-the-art robotic legs.

No stiff joints; less muscle work  

Conventional leg prostheses have several drawbacks. Prosthetic users often find that they need to exert more effort in the hip muscles to set the device in motion, requiring more energy than walking with a biological leg. Because of all the extra muscle work, conventional leg prostheses can lead to joint damage and more pain.

Another drawback is joint stiffness, which is more pronounced in users of robotic legs. The team of researchers at U-M addressed these problems in the prototype.

The researchers designed the robotic leg's joints to be as flexible as possible. Once it is commercially available, prosthetic users will find that the leg's free-swinging knee feels almost similar to a biological one.

Those who tested the prototype reported that they felt the leg pushing off the ground while they walked. This minimized the need to make their hip muscles work harder.

The next phase of this development involves improving the leg's control algorithm, so it can quickly adjust to change in pace, varying terrain, and shift between different activities.

Are you currently using a microprocessor-controlled prosthetic leg? If you are, would you consider getting yourself a new one once this prototype is commercially available?
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  • I’m really interested on more info about this awesome prosthetic leg. I’m a bk amputee

    Leslie Fraser on

  • I do use a micro-processor knee, and consider myself blessed and fortunate to have one. Here are the questions I’d have for the folks at Michigan and my prosthetist. How heavy is that knee? How compact can they make it? The individual standing in the picture is also standing on a tall block w/ their other leg. If they made one lighter than what I currently have – yes I’d be interested in trying it. It would also need to meet the “build height” for us vertically challenged folk.

    Jeremy M on

  • Great technology that could make life easier and healthier for the amputee. Unfortunately, the advanced technology equipment is not affordable or covered by insurance for most amputees. They lose out on these opportunities that should be available to everyone.

    Barbara A Turpin on

  • How can I acquire one of these? Right above knee.


  • While I am happy to be walking again, I have the most basic prosthetic leg with knee I have to make sure locks into place with each step. Talk about extremely painful on the end of my residual limb, not to mention high chance of falling, I would be so willing to try this leg if it were affordable and insurance helped pay for it.

    Definitely Would If Affordable And Insurance Would Pay For It on

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