Prosthetics Innovation Story: Paradigm Shifts in Prostheses Technology

By Undefined , Undefined


Often, paradigm shifts in products occur when business accelerators foster cutting-edge academic projects. That’s what’s happening in the case of the Utah Bionic Leg. During the last 5 years, Tomasso Lenzi, a University of Utah engineering professor, worked to integrate artificially-intelligent technology into knee and ankle joint prostheses to create the Utah Bionic Leg–recently called “the most advanced AI-powered prosthesis ever created.” And in 2022, Ottobock, a world market prosthetics leader and technology innovator, took note and invested in the product. While the Utah Bionic Leg won’t be available to the public for a few years, Ottobock’s involvement will fast-track this offering…as good business accelerators tend to do.

So why is this product causing a paradigm shift? Because the Utah Bionic Leg is fundamentally changing the basic concept of motion in prosthetics, Through the use of AI technology, the product provides gait kinematics and kinetics similar to natural body motion–a win for above-the-knee amputees in particular who struggle with heavier prostheses that have somewhat manual, limited motion. The product is designed to be lighter, smaller, and have a longer battery life than conventional passive prostheses. In fact, with its optional passive mode, the Utah Bionic Leg should allow “users (to) walk on level ground indefinitely without charging the battery.” (cite, abstract) Overall, the product should help amputees move faster, for longer and with more balance than a standard prosthetic. 

A video showing an above-the-knee-amputee exerting a more natural biological gait while climbing and descending stairs, while running on a treadmill, and more can be found here. Readers interested in learning the specifics of the AI and other technology and biomechanics can read the research article here

With these types of paradigm shifts, many of us in the limb-loss community find ourselves grateful to be living through the golden age of innovation.

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