Twenty-five years ago, Hugh Herr lost both his legs below the knee due to severe frost bite while mountain climbing. Today, he is a researcher at MIT developing new and better prosthetics. The latest invention from his team at MIT is a powered ankle-foot prosthesis.
"What this added power does is actually makes it easier on the other leg. So because of the high powers of this robotic foot, I hit the ground with my adjacent leg softer so that the forces propagating up my back are lowered. It feels like i'm attached to a robot and the robot in some sense is walking me, I'm in control, but the robot is walking me," said Dr. Hugh Herr, an MIT Research Investigator.
The powered ankle-foot is still under study but a few amputees like Garth Stewart, are trying it and giving it great reviews. "They want, within a couple of years to be able to graft this device to a human skeleton and then run interfaces between their brain, their nerves so you can feel it and then move it by thinking," said Stewart, who lost his leg in the Iraqi War.
Testing of the power ankle-foot is still in the early stages. But researchers at MIT say this will open the door to new options for natural mobility among those who have lost limbs.