Rex Bionics has developed a robotic leg system that provides people bound to a wheelchair the ability to stand up and walk unaided by crutches or braces. The system includes 29 onboard computer processors that control movement and balance through joystick control, allowing the Rex user to direct the device to sit, stand, walk, and turn easily. The robotic legs can even walk up steps and up or down slopes. (Source: Rex Bionics)
It's amazing to see what the microprocessor can do in terms of providing balance. Dean Kamen's Segway used microprocessors to balance a two-wheeled vehicle, and I always thought that was amazing. But the robotoic leg shown here is presumably more complicated than a Segway, and has to supply balance in a wider variety of potential scenarios.
It is an interesting collection and it certainly can benefit a lot of people. BUT not all engineers can or should focus on this area. There is a great deal of insight and understanding needed to arrive at a design that is better thanb "peg ;eg" of a hundred yars ago. The kinematics of human motion are quite a challenge, and even just the selection of materials compatible with human phisiology is a big effort.
Besdies all of that there are two other considerations, the first is that I am not employed to develop wonderful prosthetics, and so it would not be honest to my employers to work on projects not in their business. They have a lot of other engineering work for me to do. And the second consideration is that if all engineers started creating prosthetic designs, the pay level would drop so much that they would mostly move to other fields if they could.
Great point NadineJ, I also believe that the prices of those should be affordable to the public in order to get the maximum out of the innovation otherwise it will only be a just a innovation which has no value.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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