People with leg amputations need artificial limbs (prostheses) that provide appropriate power so that they can reengage in previous work and leisure activities and participate fully in society. Although powered prostheses are being developed, getting the most benefit from these devices requires a reliable control system that allows the user to transition easily between different types of walking, for example going from level-ground walking to walking up stairs. The current lack of such control systems makes powered devices harder to use and possibly less safe, preventing their widespread implementation. While many research groups are working on improved control systems, many do not have access to a prosthetic leg for testing purposes, and so either have to build their own, which is expensive and time consuming, or rely on virtual testing, which may not adequately replicate real life conditions.
With researchers at the University of Michigan, we are building an open-source prosthetic leg (with an ankle and knee) that is relatively inexpensive, with parts that are easy to buy and assemble. We plan to release the design and build information to the scientific community through an open access website and through publication in open access journals, so that other researchers can easily build and use this device to help with their research. Our design uses parts that are easy to obtain and inexpensive. By creating an open source leg as a research tool, we will facilitate and standardize research in this field and bring in new researchers, with new ideas, who cannot currently contribute to prosthetics research. Widespread use of this device will also allow direct comparison of different control approaches, making research more efficient.
Azocar AF, Mooney LM, Duval JF, Simon AM, Hargrove LJ, Rouse EJ. Design and clinical implementation of an open-source bionic leg. Nature Biomedical Engineering. 2020 Oct 5:1-3.
Azocar AF, Mooney LM, Hargrove LJ, Rouse EJ. Design and characterization of an open-source robotic leg prosthesis. In 2018 7th IEEE International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics (Biorob) 2018 Aug 26 (pp. 111-118). IEEE.