A new intelligent prosthetic ankle can figure out what the patient is doing and then adapts and functions as it should. Researchers say it adapts to any kind of shoe and any terrain, whether the person is walking up or down slopes or up or down stairs.
The ankle has a tiny motor, actuator, sensors, and chip that work together to either conform to the surface the foot is contacting or remain stationary, depending on what the user needs. The actuator simulates human leg muscles. When the ankle contacts the ground, it can resist movement and adapt and conform to the ground surface.
Prosthetic ankles available now are static, meaning they don’t anticipate movement and adjust the feet to different terrains. Many users swing the prosthetic leg outward ever so slightly during regular walking to make up for feet that don’t naturally roll through the motion of walking. Researchers say the problem with finding workable prosthetic ankles is so pervasive that many amputees only wear one type of shoe — whichever one works best with their prosthetic. They also interviewed nearly 100 potential users to understand what would make the ankle a success. They hope to commercialize the ankle within the next couple of years.