Lower limb prostheses are becoming competitive with real legs in terms of strength, running speed, and other characteristics. One important factor these devices are still missing compared to natural legs is the brain’s assistance when recovering from a stumble. Now researchers at ETH Zurich and National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Robotics in Switzerland are studying how our knees automatically adjust when encountering an unstable moment.
The investigators are using a special “knee perturbator” that they built specifically for this reason. As the name implies, the device creates unexpected perturbations at the knee and monitors what the knee does in response. The researchers hope that by gathering enough data and analyzing it correctly, they will be able to improve how leg prostheses respond in unexpected situations.
Here’s a video with one of the researcher behind the project:
And an example of one of the experiments using the knee perturbator:
(hat tip: Robohub)