Hugh Herr was only seventeen when he lost both his legs due to frostbite and gangrene after being trapped in a blizzard while ice-climbing at the Huntington Ravine on Mount Washington. However, 12-month later, he was back climbing at the same level again using his homemade prosthetic limbs and even became better.
His disability didn’t stop him from doing what he loves and soon became an engineer head of the Biomechatronics research group at MIT Media Lab.
Herr and his team developed a “bionic limbs” designed to mirror how a calf muscle actually functions. Through sensors, it facilitate neural reflexes enabling the user to make the mechanical part move using only his thought just like a normal body movement.
To achieve the mirroring, the team developed a mathematical model from Herr’s biological limb. They used MRI to figure out the geometries and locations of various tissues.
The team even uses robotic tools with a 14-actuator circle that goes around the biological limb and measure its unloaded shape.
They then push on the tissues to measure tissue compliances at each anatomical point. The team also combine the MRI and the robotic data and build a mathematical description of Herr’s biological limb.
Being the test subject of the bionic limbs, Herr makes sure that the prosthetics will feel like the real thing which will allow user to walk, run, climb, jump, and dance without the discomfort of the old ones.
Herr said, “My bionic limbs are attached to my biological body via synthetic skins with stiffness variations that mirror my underlying tissue biomechanics.
Here’s Hugh Herr discussing his bionic limbs on TED
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