Robotic Ankle Exoskeleton Helps Users Regain Limb Function

A robotic ankle exoskeleton developed at the University of Michigan helps people regain limb function; it is controlled by the wearer's own nervous system.


(Robotic ankle exoskeleton)

As the subject attempts to walk forward, electrical impulses from the brain tell muscles how to move. People with spinal injuries, as well as some neurological disorders, may have problems walking because these impulses do not arrive in a coordinated fashion, or because the impulses are too weak.

The robotic ankle exoskeleton uses the brain's electrical signals to know what to do and how to move. Electromyography (EMG) signals are processed in real time by a computer; the signals are used to control air pressure supplied to the artificial pneumatic muscle.

"This could benefit stroke patients or patients with incomplete injuries of the spinal cord," said Daniel Ferris, associate professor in movement science at U-M. "For patients that can walk slowly, a brace like this may help them walk faster and more effectively."

Science fiction fans have long been familiar with the idea of a powered suit that responds directly to the user's muscles and amplifies their function. In a sense, the UM invention is the opposite; it provides simple assistance so that the wearer can strengthen or regain lost function. I'm also fascinated by the sense in which the robotic ankle exoskeleton's computer system helps to interpret and strengthen the signals produced by the wearer's nervous system.

As the science fiction example of an exoskeleton, I've chosen the titanium exoskeleton from Fritz Lieber's excellent 1968 novel A Specter is Haunting Texas. In the story, a man who had grown up in weak gravity comes to Earth and needs support just to stand up.

This truly magnificent, romantically handsome, rather lean man was standing on two corrugated-soled titanium footplates. From the outer edge of each rose a narrow titanium T-beam that followed the line of his leg, with a joint (locked now) at the knee, up to another joint with a titanium pelvic girdle and shallow belly support. From the back of this girdle a T-spine rose to support a shoulder yoke and rib cage, all of the same metal. The rib cage was artistically slotted to save weight, so that curving strips followed the line of each of his very prominent ribs.
(Read more about the titanium exoskeleton)

There are other examples of this kind of strengthening exoskeleton in the real world (as opposed to the science-fictional one). The Robotics and Mechatronics Laboratory of Northeastern University developed the AKROD v2 - Active Knee Rehabilitation Device . This device uses a computer-controlled knee joint filled with magneto-rheological fluid to provided graded resistance to help patients regain function. See also a new device to help people with manual dexterity problems following a stroke - the HOWARD Hand-Wrist Assisting Robotic Device.

Read more about the UM's Robotic exoskeleton (with short videos); this research provides a real basis for applications in rehab and physical therapy.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/12/2007)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Robotics ")

Pipefish Robot Checks Pipes Cheap
Just like capsule endoscopy, but for bigger pipes. That go underground.

Robot Only Faster, Not Better, At Recycling
'Whenever a robot finds something it can't identify straight off... it puts whatever it is in the hopper outside your window.' - Harry Harrison, 1956.

Do We Really Want Backflipping Robots?
Also includes wonderful blooper reel.

Cassie 'Halfbot' Best Half (Lower) Of Humanoid Robot
We can always make it limp along if it gets threatening.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Made In Space To Manufacture Optical Fiber In Orbit
'Mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'

Dune Fans! Power Your Devices With Sweaty Shirts
Yet another power source from humans.

Orwell's Memory Hole Looms Larger Thanks To Nvidia
'All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.'

Pipefish Robot Checks Pipes Cheap
Just like capsule endoscopy, but for bigger pipes. That go underground.

Nifty New SDS Space Debris Sensor For ISS
'Their radars... could easily pinpoint the debris of the early Space Age.'

NanoRacks Space Station Module Concept Validated
Space junk into space architecture.

Nuclear Drones Could Fly For Years
'I sent my eyes on their rounds and tended my gallery of one hundred-thirty changing pictures...'

SciFiQ Science Fiction Writing Aid
'Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.'

Robot Only Faster, Not Better, At Recycling
'Whenever a robot finds something it can't identify straight off... it puts whatever it is in the hopper outside your window.'

Poland Starts With 1000 Warmate 'Suicide Drones'
'Royal Security had told the pods to electrocute you or blast you into chum.'

Dream Of Building Your Own Rocket?
Fiorello Bodoni, you inspire all of us.

Zero Mass 'Vaporators' Pull Drinking Water From The Air
Did you think of Star Wars?

Elon Musk Fears A 'Fleet-Wide Hack' Of Autonomous Vehicles
'Khan grinned. 'It's alive! Bu-wahhahahah!''

China Melts Tibetan Permafrost To Plant Forest
'Can you give us a microwave spotlight?'

iFlytek Doctor Robot First To Pass Medical Exams
Doctor shortage? No problem, we'll just use the autodoc.

Slaughterbot AI KIller Quadcopter Drones
'The real border was defended by... a swarm of quasi-independent aerostats.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.