A New Reality with Mind-Controlled Bionic Legs

The bionic leg from Össur relies on sensors implanted in the body.

In recent years, artificial limbs have allowed people to move more naturally than ever before. However, mind-controlled technology promises the most seamless movements yet.

Although the idea of mind-control may sound like it is lifted from the pages of a  science fiction story, it actually has a strong basis in biology. After all, for most people, moving a limb does not require conscious thought. While modern prosthetic limbs allow people to achieve a more natural range of motion, they still require conscious exertion of the muscles attached to the limb. This is not the case with the latest bionic leg from Össur.

The bionic leg from Össur relies on sensors implanted in the body.

The bionic leg from Össur relies on sensors implanted in the body.

To do this, the limb relies on sensors implanted in the body. These sensors provide wireless signals to the limb, which is equipped with a computer. This allows the limb to be moved subconsciously, just like any other body part. In truth, the idea of mind-controlled prosthetics is hardly new, but the technology has been difficult to adapt for regular usage. In many cases, the sensors have been overwhelmed with impulses from too many muscles, hindering the performance of the limb.

Even with more recent advancements, it has been difficult to refine the technology enough to work with the legs. Interestingly, creating mind-controlled hands has been easier since the hands and arms are usually controlled by more conscious thoughts. The legs, however, are often used with less thought, making it harder for the sensors to pick up on the subconscious desires to get up and move.

That is why Össur has developed the most precise sensors yet. Össur identified the key differences between the hands and the legs and designed their sensors to work more in tandem with the spine, where the vast majority of subconscious commands come from for the legs. In order to work, small sensors called Implanted MyoElectric Sensors from the Alfred Mann Foundation are implanted into specific muscles in the remnant leg. These sensors communicate with an advanced computer system in the leg, essentially becoming an artificial spinal cord to control the movements.

Development is ongoing with clinical trials. Össur has used this mind-controlled technology for prosthetic feet, knees, and legs. While more work undoubtedly needs to be done, the results are promising. After all, those who need a prosthetic limb are not interested in science fiction. They simply want to live a normal life, and with mind-controlled technology, that may soon be a reality.

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