Mind-controlled leg prosthetics are now a reality

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Prosthetics are an innovation that has made life bearable for thousands and, as techniques for limb replacement become ever more advanced, the odds of having a normal life increase dramatically.

Groups like the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) have been doing work on bionics and the RIC has just published details of a bionic leg which is controlled by the wearer’s thoughts. The mind-controlled bionic leg, the product of four year in development and $8 million in funding from the US Army, is able to switch between different modes of movement if the user simply thinks about a different type of locomotion.

Zac Vawter, the motorcycle accident victim who tested the leg for the RIC, said “The bionic leg allows me to seamlessly walk up and down stairs and even reposition the prosthetic by thinking about the movement I want to perform. This is a huge milestone for me and for all leg amputees.”

Making use of a bionic leg like this isn’t an easy task. Nerves which would normally lead to a damaged area need to be relocated to healthy muscle tissue, where sensors for the prosthetic can detect the impulses sent down those nerves and cause the bionic limb to react accordingly.

Vawter promoted the work being done on the thought-controlled bionics last year by climbing 103 floors with the prosthetic attached.

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