Natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti and man-made tragedies like soldiers or civilians losing limbs to explosives drive the need for better prosthetic limbs. Improved treatments are on the horizon in the form of novel foot and ankle prosthesis which behave energetically more like the human body than existing technologies. These powered devices can efficiently store and return impact energy during walking, and do so at the appropriate point in the gait cycle so that the user can walk more easily. A device designed by engineers at University of Michigan reduces walking energy by over 30%, compared to a traditional prosthetic foot. The researchers recorded cool high-speed video of the device in use. [from R&D Mag]
Another very cool and innovative technology is the iWalk PowerFoot One.
This bionic foot-ankle prosthesis was pioneered by a researcher at MIT, Dr. Hugh Herr. I had the pleasure of meeting him last year and was truly inspired by the encounter. He epitomizes passion for engineering, and is one of the few engineering researchers I’ve met who deftly and simultaneously applies scientific research and engineering technology to his work. A documentary was made about Dr. Herr, and the trailer is definitely worth a moment to view.