By: Bryan Tropeano
Having a bionic leg controlled by the brain may seem like a futuristic fantasy. In reality, it is something that is already being used in real life scenarios and is more than likely going to be used in the main stream within three to five years.
A company called Ossur, based in Reykjavik Iceland, are behind this ground breaking technology and are currently trialing robotic limbs in several patients. The limbs make use of implanted myoelectric sensor (IMES) technology which involves a sensor being embedded under the user’s skin that is then able to pick up vibrations in surrounding muscle tissue that result from particular brain signals.
The wearer can think about moving forward or backward and this results in the sensors being activated. The sensors will then send a wireless signal down to the control unit which is housed inside the prosthetic, this signal will then activate the mechanics of the prosthetic and cause it to move accordingly.
The trial currently involves prosthetic legs and the main point of control is the movement in the ankle which helps the wearer when balancing and also when moving. Without this brain controlled movement the wearer of a prosthetic leg would typically have to rely heavily on the other leg when undertaking certain manoeuvres such as standing up, sitting down and traversing stairs. The reason behind this is that without having the ability to move the ankle changes in balance are extremely difficult.
Gudmundur Olafsson is one of the people who has been fortunate enough to trial this new type of prosthetic leg. As part of the trial program Gudmundur gets to keep the prosthetic leg in return for allowing usage information to be collected and used by Ossur in order to further develop the program and the product.
Gudmundur originally had his lower leg amputated some 10 years ago following a serious road accident some years before which culminated in the removal of the leg.
Gudmunder had the new thought controlled prosthetic leg fitted around 18 months ago and the first time that he was able to move his ankle just by thinking about it he actually broke out in tears through the sheer amazement of having some control over what had been a missing part of his body for so many years.
While there are many thought controlled prosthetic trials going on in the world this is one of the very few that are actually being trialed by members of the public as opposed to simply in laboratory conditions, and this is the reason why the trials are so revolutionary.
Ossur are hoping to introduce more thought controlled prosthetics to members of the public for further trials over the coming months and years and have a vision to bring their thought controlled products to market within the next 3 to 5 years.
While this technology does still sound futuristic it is most definitely a real possibility. It is something that could potentially revolutionise medicine as well as completely changing the lives of people who have been affected by the loss of limbs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bryan Tropeano is a senior producer and a regular reporter for NewsWatch. He lives in Washington D.C. and loves all things Tech.