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MIT professor and double amputee invents the Iwalk PowerFoot, the world’s most advanced robotic prosthetic foot December 3, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Hardware, Health Care IT, Robotics, Startups, Venture Capital.
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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.

Dr. Hugh Herr with the Iwalk PowerFoot

Dr. Hugh Herr with the Iwalk PowerFoot



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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IRobot, based in Bedford, MA, launches a new “aging in place” home healthcare unit aimed at senior citizens November 11, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Robotics.
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IRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT), the Bedford, MA-based maker of robots such as the Roomba for vacuuming and the PackBot for the military, revealed early this month that it has created a healthcare unit to focus on developing robots that help seniors “age in place”, living independently in their homes. Technology veteran Tod Loofbourrow is heading the new healthcare unit as its president and will report directly to iRobot CEO Colin Angle, according to the company. Angle is expected to discuss the company’s healthcare strategy at the TEDMED conference in San Diego.

Boston Dynamics ‘Big Dog’ robot – the 21st Century Army pack mule April 17, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Defense Contracts, Manufacturing, Military Contracting, Military Contracts, Products, Robotics.
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Boston Dynamics is based in Waltham, MA. The Big Dog robot’s development was funded by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the US government. Early in the company’s history, it worked with the American Systems Corporation under a contract from the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) to replace naval training videos for aircraft launch operations with interactive 3D computer simulations.

Marc Raibert is the company’s president and principal project manager. He spun the company off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992.

The Most Advanced Quadruped Robot on Earth
BigDog is the alpha male of the Boston Dynamics family of robots. It is a quadruped robot that walks, runs, and climbs on rough terrain and carries heavy loads. BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog’s legs are articulated like an animal’s, and have compliant elements that absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. BigDog is the size of a large dog or small mule, measuring 1 meter long, 0.7 meters tall and 75 kg weight.

Take a peek at Boston Dynamic’s other quadraped robot, “Little Dog”

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Boston Dynamics and DARPA collaborate on ‘Little Dog’, a walking quadruped research robot April 17, 2009

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The Legged Learning Robot
LittleDog is a quadruped robot for research on learning locomotion. Scientists at leading institutions use LittleDog to probe the fundamental relationships among motor learning, dynamic control, perception of the environment, and rough terrain locomotion.

LittleDog has four legs, each powered by three electric motors. The legs have a large range of motion and workspace. The motors are strong enough for dynamic locomotion, including climbing. The onboard PC-level computer does sensing, actuator control and communications. LittleDog’s sensors measure joint angles, motor currents, body orientation and foot/ground contact. Control programs access the robot through the Boston Dynamics Robot API. Onboard lithium polymer batteries allow for 30 minutes of continuous operation without recharging. Wireless communications and data logging support remote operation and analysis. LittleDog development is funded by the DARPA Information Processing Technology Office.

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