UM and Humotech team up to bring an open source bionic leg to research labs


The open-source, artificially intelligent prosthetic leg designed by researchers at the University of Michigan will be brought to the research market by Humotech, an assistive technology company based in Pittsburgh.

The goal of the collaboration is to accelerate the development of control software for robotic prosthetic legs, which have the potential to deliver the power and natural gait of a human leg to prosthetic users.

“We have developed the open source branch to foster the study of control strategies for robotic prostheses – one of the most significant obstacles hindering their public impact,” said Elliott Rouse, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and senior professor at the ‘Institute of Robotics at UM.

“The open source branch is now being used by over 10 other research groups to develop control strategies on a common platform, but we’ve noticed that some research groups would prefer not to build it themselves. To maximize the benefit to the public, a product-like solution was needed.

First launched in 2019, the open source branch’s free copy design is intended to accelerate scientific advancements by providing a unified platform for fragmented research efforts in the field of bionics. Now, for labs that need a standard robotic prosthesis for research and development, Humotech will provide an assembled version of the open source branch, including warranty service and technical support.

“We see many benefits in standardizing the hardware and software used by the research community,” said Josh Caputo, president and CEO of Humotech. “The fully contained and powerful open source branch is a natural extension of what we can do to support our mission to transform the way the world develops wearable robotics.

“By offering a pre-assembled version with professional support, we hope to improve access to this platform for studying the control of robotic leg prostheses. We are extremely pleased to partner with the University of Michigan on this strategic initiative and together to help accelerate research and innovation in the field.

Alejandro Francisco Azocar, graduate student research assistant in mechanical engineering, puts the finishing connections together before testing an open source robotic leg designed by Elliott Rouse, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and his building research group GG Brown on the 28th. May 2019. Image credit: Robert Coelius, Michigan Engineering

Humotech, originally from Carnegie Mellon University, develops tools for the advancement of portable robotic control systems and other portable devices. Using its own research community, Humotech will build and further support a development community around the open source branch and seek to incorporate the branch into Humotech’s Caplex platform. Caplex is a hardware and software test bed that allows researchers to mimic the mechanics of portable machines, including prosthetics and exoskeletons.

In collaboration, Rouse’s lab and Humotech will also iterate on new versions of the open source leg to meet the needs of prosthetic wearers and researchers.

The original prosthetic leg was designed to be simple, inexpensive and performant. Its modular design can act as a knee, ankle or both, with integrated power and control electronics that allow it to be tested anywhere. Rouse worked with Levi Hargrove, director of the Center for Bionic Medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago, to develop this first model.

Rouse hopes the Humotech partnership will expand the capabilities of other labs and enable them to conduct high impact research. One example of such research that Rouse notes is a Nature Biomedical Engineering article, “Design and Clinical Implementation of an Open-Source Bionic Leg,” by former mechanical engineering doctoral student Alejandro Azocar.

For researchers looking to build the leg themselves, the prosthesis parts list, assembly instructions and programming remain available free online.

“This collaboration advances the mission of our open source leg project,” said Rouse. “Translating an open source research prototype into a commercial product is rare for our field, but our partnership can continue to lower barriers to research, accelerate technical advancements, and ultimately have a positive impact on lives. . “

Written in collaboration with Danielle Commisso from Humotech.


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