MIT professor and double amputee invents the Iwalk PowerFoot, the world’s most advanced robotic prosthetic foot December 3, 2009Posted by HubTechInsider in Hardware, Health Care IT, Robotics, Startups, Venture Capital.
Tags: Biotech, Biotechnology, Cambridge, Harvard University, M.I.T., Microprocessors, MIT, Prosthetics, Robotics, science, Startups, Venture Capital
MIT professor and double amputee Dr. Hugh Herr is building the world’s most advanced prosthetic foot. In 2006, Herr founded Iwalk, which has plans to release next year the PowerFoot One, the world’s most advanced robotic ankle and foot. Iwalk is a startup funded by General Catalyst Partners and WFD Ventures. Iwalk has raised $10.2 million from investors.
The Iwalk PowerFoot is the only foot and ankle in the word that doesn’t depend on its wearer’s energy. With a system of passive springs and a half-pound rechargeable lithium iron phosphate battery, the foot – made of aluminum, titanium, plastic and carbon fiber – provides the same 20-joule push off the ground that human muscles and tendons do. It automatically adjusts the power to the walker’s speed, but users can also dial that power up or down with a Bluetooth-enabled phone, and with a forthcoming iPhone application.
Most prosthetic feet are fixed at a clumsy 90 degrees. The Iwalk PowerFoot, equipped with three internal microprocessors and twelve force, inertia and position sensors, automatically adjusts its angle, stiffness and damping 500 times a second. Employing the same sort of sensory feedback loops that the human nervous system uses, plus a library of known patterns, the PowerFoot adjusts for slopes, dips its toe naturally when walking down the stairs, even hangs casually when the user crosses his or her legs.
Potential customers include the Department of Defense, looking for prostheses for the nearly 1,000 soldiers who have lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Veterans Administration and the Army are among the investors in Dr. Herr’s research.
Herr has a reputation as an obsessive student, earning a master’s in mechanical enginerring at MIT and a Ph.D. in biophysics at Harvard. He sat on a panel of scientists that confirmed that South African Oscar Pistorius, a sprinter with no legs below the knee, should be allowed to compete in the Olympics.
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