Researchers are addressing the tendency to stumble in lower-body prosthetics by understanding the way people with two legs catch themselves. They accomplished this by covering test subjects with motion-capturing sensors. It also required tripping them over and over — 190 times, to be exact — for a study. But because humans are so mentally geared to resist stumbling, the team first had to design a stumbling device.
Not only did the treadmill device have to trip them, it had to trip them at specific points in their gait. People stumble differently depending on when their foot hits a barrier. The device also had to overcome their fear of falling, so they couldn't see or feel when the block was coming.
In addition to protecting test subjects, the harness included a scale. If a subject put 50 percent or more of their weight on it during a stumble, that counted as a fall. The team's design for the machine and outcomes of their tests are available for other labs to use in the open-source journal.
The next phase is to take that information and program it into computer-controlled prosthetic legs.
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