An intelligent prosthetic leg is blending robotics and electronics to allow the knee and the ankle to communicate and give amputees a level of mobility previously unheard of. Stuart McDill reports.
Even a gentle slope can be a major obstacles for an amputee Rishi Vegad is tackling this one with a prosthetic leg that blends robotics and cyber-technology and he can almost forget he's wearing one. Almost. (SOUNDBITE)(English) RISHI VEGAD, AMPUTEE SAYING: "The knee and the foot don't cause any issues. It's the socket, it's the attachment to the limb is where the discomfort comes from and that's what brings you back down to earth and that's when you realise 'Oh, yeah, I've got a prosthetic leg', but for that you just crack on as normal." The Linx Limb System has four micro-computers and a network of sensors continually reporting what the leg is doing algorithms then calculates the relationship between knee and ankle - ensuring the leg is always in the best position. It's developers, UK based Blatchford, says wearers can stop thinking about walking - instead, thinking while walking (SOUNDBITE)(English) NADINE STECH, DESIGN ENGINEER SAYING: "I can remember one of my amputees was telling me 'well I don't plan my day anymore. I just put it on and get on with it.' which is the best, 'and I don't feel it that it's doing something but it's just there. I can just trust it.' That was one of the major things that it was not invasive, so he didn't perceive it as invasive but it was just there to support him and he's not worried about 'where am I going, uneven terrain, ramps, all those things." The leg also solves a perennial problem for prosthetic users - simply standing still locking off when it senses the user has stopped Allowing them to take the weight of their good leg and rest One of a number of benefits Blatchford believes make the twenty five thousand pound price tag - economic (SOUNDBITE)(English) PROFESSOR SAEED ZAHEDI, BLATCHFORD TECHNICAL DIRECTOR SAYING: "If you don't have to pay ten thousand pounds for joint replacements or the heavy cost of lower back treatment or even the tissue ulcerations as well as reducing the risk of falls. All this collectively can actually show the benefits." The company hopes it can convince insurers and healthcare systems of the benefits of allowing amputees to take any terrain in their stride.