The Chance To Dance Again
by Michael Keller
We highlighted the TED talk of Hugh Herr a couple of weeks ago. But his work is too important and beautiful to leave to just one post.
The MIT associate professor of media arts and sciences is making prosthetic limbs and exoskeletons that restore function in those who have lost legs from injury or disease. This set of gifs focuses on his team’s BiOM powered ankle and foot prosthesis.
"Bionics is not only about making people stronger and faster," he said during the talk. "Our expression, our humanity can be embedded into electromechanics."
To prove his point, Herr and fellow researchers studied dance movement to replace the lower leg that professional dancer Adrianne Haslet-Davis lost after last year’s Boston marathon bombing. He concluded his talk by bringing Haslet-Davis on the stage to perform a bionic rumba.
“It’s always good to design something people will use,” Herr later said. “It’s great to do the science, yes, but it’s also great to see humanity using something that one has invented.”
He says the BiOM prosthesis restores natural gait, power and speed. Batteries two microprocessors and six environmental sensors power “bionic propulsion,” which adjusts ankle stiffness, power and position from heel strike through pushing off. The device actually absorbs shock and generates thrust to propel the wearer forward into the next step.
“Imagine a future where we’ll have bionic feet, ankles, knees, and hips that are technologically optimal,” Herr said. “One could just bolt these pieces together to produce a humanoid hardware platform.”