MOVING FORWARD: The Future of AI Prosthetics
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an ever-expanding realm of technological advancements, captivating the human mind and pushing the limits of what we can do. AI’s breakthrough into the medical industry has allowed such advancements as restoring the power of speech, and more recently, prosthetic and bionic limb engineers are executing lifelike designs that have the potential to lift, sense, and complete a full range of movement.
Researchers strive to develop bionic limbs that are user-friendly, lightweight, and attractive, allowing amputees to complete daily tasks with ease. The Boston Digital Arm is a prime example that takes advantage of the AI technology readily available today. The arm, developed by Liberating Technologies, allows movement within 360 degrees, enabling a more natural sense of mobility throughout the limb.
The newest progression in AI bionic limb technology is Targeted Muscle Reinnervation, which first arose in late 2014. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory launched this breakthrough after discovering that the nerves and neural impulses that remained after an amputation could control an artificial limb. The technology was first demonstrated by a shoulder amputee, Les Baugh, who used it to operate two bionic upper limb prostheses for the first time. He was able to lift cups and perform a wide range of activities never before seen in prosthetics, constituting an incredible advancement in the field.
This innovation integration of AI also extends to the lower body, exemplified by an open-source artificially intelligent bionic leg that was unveiled at this year’s Amazon Re:MARS conference in Las Vegas. Bionic legs must perform a wide range of functions: they must be able to operate under the pressure of the human body, provide balance, and perform movements such as running and jumping. All of these activities are far more complicated to mimic manually than they appear. The key to making it work is artificial intelligence. The AI-based control utilises a combination of muscle contraction signals and sensory data from within the bionic limb to anticipate what a user is going to do next and responds accordingly. This technology provides amputees with an easier and faster paced recovery.
At Casper & Casper, we are inspired by innovations in design, especially those that better the quality of human life. With the integration of 3D printing, designers such as Braun Prothesenwerk can provide amputees with realistic hands, legs, feet, and arms, complete with accurate skin tone. For the moment, AI-integrated bionic limbs appear robotic, but as 3D printed covers and encasements become more accessible, it will be increasingly difficult to recognise when somebody is wearing a prosthetic. That kind of concealment can be highly important for some amputees.
Constant evolution is paramount to the prosthetics industry, and the future of AI brings nothing but possibility. We at Casper & Casper are incredibly excited to witness what advancements may change the lives of medically affected people in the coming years.
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Visit The Scientist to learn more about the latest developments in prosthetics.
Feature by Amber Ryder.
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