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New Tech Automatically 'tunes' Powered Prosthetics While Walking

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An amputee practices walking with a powered prosthetic leg.

A new algorithm developed by researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, can automatically tune powered prosthetic legs.

Credit: NCSU News

Powered prosthetic legs require regular tuning by a prosthetics expert to ensure the amputees using them can walk normally using the prosthetic.

However, Helen Huang, a professor in the biomedical engineering program at North Carolina State University (NCSU) and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill), says powered prosthetic legs also require frequent adjustment for a variety of reasons, such as a patient becoming more comfortable with the prosthetic, or a weight change. Such frequent retuning can be expensive and time-consuming.

To address this, Huang and a team of researchers at NCSU and UNC-Chapel Hill have developed an algorithm that can automatically tune powered prosthetic legs. The algorithm not only allows for retuning to adjust for longer-term changes such as weight gain, but also shorter-term changes such as changes in gait.

Huang says the algorithm could even "provide more power to a prosthesis when a patient carries a heavy suitcase through an airport."

She notes the algorithm has outperformed human prosthetists in achieving proper joint angle, which enables the prosthetic to mimic natural limbs during walking. However, Huang says the algorithm has not yet beat prosthetists' ability to help patients develop a comfortable posture while using the prosthetic.

From NCSU News
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