The National Science Foundation recently awarded a $1 million grant to Panagiotis Artemiadis, PhD, a roboticist at Arizona State University, and two other ASU scientists to develop and test a smart robotic ankle that could have the ability to adapt to walk on a variety of surfaces. Rob Gray, PhD, the human-systems engineering program chair from the Polytechnic School will help design the system and test it from a human-factors standpoint. Roboticist Tom Sugar, PhD, will also work on designing the prosthetic.
People spend between 10 and 20 percent of their walking time on uneven surfaces. Using current prosthetic designs, users fall on soft surfaces about 20 percent of the time. “It’s not a huge percent, but if you fall 20 percent of the time, it’s a huge problem,” said Artemiadis, an associate professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.
When stepping from concrete to mud, sand, or grass, the mechanics of how ankles and knees move changes. It’s harder to walk on sand than a sidewalk, for instance. Muscles move differently on different surfaces, Artemiadis said. “We want to create a robotic ankle that is powered but can identify differences on the walking-surface compliance, and adapt to that so that it can transition between surfaces,” he said. “You can go from sand back to concrete and solid surfaces and transition from grass to mud and still not have any problems.”
Editor’s Note: This story was adapted from materials provided by Arizona State University