You’ve probably heard of prosthetic mobility aids before, but have you ever wondered how they work?
And have you ever wondered what’s next for prosthetics? With the rise of new tech like AI, prosthetic limbs are becoming more intelligent and dynamic than ever before. This article will look at what mobility aid prosthetics are and how they may look in days to come.
What Are Mobility Aids?
To start with, let’s define what a mobility aid is.
A mobility aid is something a person may rely on for help with movement – usually walking. They can range from a walking stick or crutch to a motorised vehicle like a power chair or electric wheelchair.
Mobility aids are a popular and important tool for many people worldwide. They allow them to live with a degree of independence and freedom they wouldn’t have without them, which is why the development of mobility aids must continue to make them as great as they can be.
What Is A Prosthetic?
Regarding mobility, prosthetics are artificial limbs that can replace a missing body part. They are most commonly given to people with an amputation or those born without specific limbs.
They mimic how the lost limb works, allowing the user to perform tasks as they usually would. They come in many different shapes and sizes and can be used for various applications. For example, you may have seen ‘Running Blade‘ prosthetic legs at the Paralympics – these have been specially designed to help propel the user as they run.
The Two Types Of Prosthetics
There are two main categories of prosthetics:
- Body Powered Prosthetic – these are operated by the user using their muscle power and are typically controlled by harnesses or cables.
- Externally Powered Prosthetic – these prosthetics are powered by motors and electric controls. They signal from the individual’s muscles, a computer or an AI system. These mobility aids must be fitted professionally to the wearer’s body.
There are also PPAM aids (Pneumatic Post-Amputation Mobility Aid), which are special devices worn after amputations to help the user adjust to the weight and feel of a prosthetic before getting fitted for a fully functional one. These help the reduction of residual limb oedema (when excess fluid collects in body tissue), prepare the limb for wearing a prosthesis and allow the re-education of postural reactions, gait and balance.
What Are Bionic Prosthetic Mobility Aids?
Bionics is a type of biological engineering that combines the two fields to create biologically inclined electronics – for example, a prosthetic limb powered by electricity or even AI can be classed as a bionic limb.
Many years ago, bionics were the things of legend, and they were only seen in movies and comic books as a distant image of what the world may look like someday. But now, bionics is a popular choice for those without limbs, offering an increasingly intelligent way of getting around.
How Do Bionic Prosthetics Work?
Intelligent bionic prosthetics (also known as ‘myoelectric’) work by using electric signals from the user’s muscles to control their movements.
This is similar to how human limbs communicate with the brain – a signal tells the muscle how to respond. With a bionic limb, the signal goes to a control system, translating into a command for the bionic limb to replicate.
These incredibly intelligent electronics create an effective way for people who are missing a biological limb to get close to the real thing – offering them a solution that they don’t have to think too much about and respond to their natural signals.
What Does The Future Hold For Bionic Prosthetics?
With the rise of AI, prosthetic limbs are becoming more and more advanced as exciting mobility aid options. Robotic developers have found numerous ways to make bots dynamic and intelligent, and bionic developers are no different.
Esper Bionics, a leading prosthetic developer, calls their prosthetic limbs “human advancements”. They believe that prosthetics can reach a point in which they are even better than human limbs – with high-tech advancements which make them extra dexterous, intelligent, strong and flexible.
While this may sound like something from a sci-fi movie, advanced prosthetic limbs have the potential to help make life easier and more accessible, reducing discrimination against people born with genetic disorders, which leave them without limbs.
They can create prosthetic limbs that look and feel like real human limbs, allowing the user to live as normal a life as possible without worrying about mobility adjustments.
Prosthetic mobility aids are becoming increasingly intelligent. With the rise of new technology, the future looks bright for the engineering of new smart products which can help users live their lives with optimal amounts of freedom.
We can’t wait to see what comes next!