The final review meeting of a three-year, European Commission-funded project to construct a bionic prosthetic leg was held March 16 in Florence, Italy. The lightweight robotic leg system, the CYBERnetic LowEr-Limb CoGnitive Ortho-prosthesis (CYBERLEGs), is designed for individuals with transfemoral amputations. Researchers said it offers users an energy-efficient, fluid gait, and can reduce the risk of falls. A wearable sensory apparatus, comprising smart shoes with pressure sensors and inertial measurement units coupled with lower-limb segments, provides the cognitive control unit with the ability to decode the user’s intended movement and smoothly control the robotic prosthesis. It can, for instance, tell if the user wants to start walking, to get up from a seated position, or to sit down-based on the user’s habits-providing the proper support for each action, reported engadget.
If additional walking assistance is needed, the robotic leg system can be coupled with an active, ergonomically designed, battery-powered pelvis orthosis that provides flexion and extension assistance to both hips.
The CYBERLEGS project was led by a team of researchers at Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (SSSA), Pisa, Italy, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia; Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi Onlus, Florence; the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium; and Free University of Brussels, Belgium. During the course of the project, six individuals with transfemoral amputations successfully trialed the prosthesis; they demonstrated the ability to walk, sit, stand, and climb stairs. The results confirmed the effectiveness and feasibility of using a network of sensors worn as a noninvasive interface to control a robotic lower-limb prosthesis, according to an SSSA press release. However, the researchers said that additional work is needed to reduce the overall dimensions and weight of the system and improve comfort for the user.