Rehabilitating ankle muscles that have been dormant for months is no walk in the park. Trust me, I speak from experience, as I’m currently recovering from a shattered heel bone. However, a new robotic device could offer assistance to myself and others with more serious neuromuscular disorders like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis
Yong-Lae Park, an assistant professor in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, and his colleagues built a robo-ankle of sorts, using soft plastics and composite materials, rather than a rigid exoskeleton. The orthotic device includes pneumatic artificial muscles, small sensors and advanced control software to mimic the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the lower leg.
The artificial muscles are controlled by compressed air and circuits, which move the wearer’s foot through a series of exercise movements designed to strengthen weak muscles and improve the ankle’s range of motion while the patient is sitting. Future incarnations of the device may even allow for people to wear the device while going about their daily life. ”Controlling the device using the wearer’s motion or muscle intention is our ongoing and future work,” Park told New Scientist.
While the original intent of the robo-ankle was for people with long-term conditions, Park also stated it could be used on those recovering from injury. “The device could be used for short-term ankle rehabilitation as well, for example muscle training and exercise after cast or splint removal,” he said.
To which I say, Park, I’m willing to be your guinea pig. I’m ready to shift my physical therapy into overdrive and strap into the robo-ankle. Hit me up. All you other non-gimpy, able walkers can check out the following video of the device in action.
Credit: Carnegie Mellon University