Isro has developed a smart limb using microprocessors that are used in space exploration. 

By India Today Web Desk: The India Space Research Organisation (Isro) has developed an artificial smart limb that could help amputees in walking with a comfortable gait. The artificial limb is a spin-off from space technology that could be manufactured for commercial use soon. The smart is expected to be cheaper by about ten times.

The newly announced smart tech is called Microprocessor-Controlled Knees (MPKs), which offers extended capabilities for the amputee more than those offered by the passive limbs that do not use the microprocessors. Nearly 1.6 kilograms in weight, Isro says the smart limb under development, at the moment, enabled an amputee to walk about 100 meters in the corridor with minimum support.

These smart MPKs are being developed by Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Isro under an MoU with the National Institute for Locomotor Disabilities (NILD), Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya National Institute for Persons with Physical Disabilities, and the Artificial Limb Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO).

A series of walking trials with non-amputees. (Photo: Isro)

Isro, in a release, said that the smart limb consists of a microprocessor, hydraulic damper, load & knee angle sensors, composite knee-case, Li-ion battery, electrical harness, and interface elements. It detects the state of gait based on the sensor data and the control software estimates the real-time damping needed to attain the desired gait by changing the stiffness of the system.

“Walking parameters specific to amputees can be set using PC-based software to improve one’s comfort. The interface plots the parameters in real-time during walking. The feasibility of the design was verified using an engineering model,” Isro said in the release.

The proof of concept model of the limb was developed in an aluminum knee case, a solenoid valve-based damper, and a six-axis load cell, which then went on to use DC motor-based damper with a spool position sensor, pylon integrated load cell, miniaturized control electronics, and a Graphical user interface for parameter tuning in the next phase.

Isro then tested the technology with an amputee after attaining clearance from the Joint Project Monitoring Committee for conducting walking trials. “Initial walking trials were conducted with the support of parallel bars. Subsequently, the amputee could walk about 100 m in the corridor with minimum support. All the sub-systems of the knee performed satisfactorily,” the Indian space agency said.

Isro said that the new technology is estimated to be priced at Rs 4-5 lakh, while the currently available limbs are priced at Rs 10-60 lakh.