As part of our mission to help those with limb differences learn about bionic limb technology, we periodically report on the latest research news. Below are the most interesting stories that we uncovered over the past three weeks.
A Quick Review of Adjustable Sockets & Liners
As most of you know, we write only about bionic devices, so prosthetic sockets are a little outside our purview.
Yet, again and again, we are contacted by patients who express frustration with their sockets even when they are otherwise satisfied with their bionic knee/ankle/foot.
Interest in this subject is so strong that we had to create a waiting list of patients willing to participate in the clinical trials of any new socket innovations.
Because of this, we wanted to provide a quick rundown of the socket technologies that we are tracking:
This interesting prototype popped up on our radar a few months ago. It’s a robotic liner that uses artificial intelligence to automatically adjust its fit throughout the day. Pretty impressive stuff and the one adjustable socket technology that has drawn the most interest on our site so far.
A complete system to design the perfect-fitting socket. Of course, that perfection doesn’t last with frequent changes in the residual limb, but the data generated by this system can also be used to support the use of adjustable sockets.
Martin Bionics Socket-less Socket
This is even less in our bailiwick because it doesn’t involve sensors or AI or any of the other stuff that we love, but there is no questioning the popularity of this socket or its effectiveness for active users. We track their website and various social media feeds just in case they get into the self-adjusting socket market.
RevoFit from Click Medical
Same issue here. This device is not “bionic” in any way, but it is well-regarded and therefore lands on our watchlist for potential manufacturers of self-adjusting socket technology.
Infinite Socket by LIM Innovations
Same issue again. We believe that self-adjusting sockets will eventually dominate but we have no idea where the next innovations will come from. Companies like LIM Innovations are worthy candidates.
Bionic Knees for Lower-Mobility Patients
One of the complaints that we get about our research articles is that we don’t write enough about bionic knees. This is not intentional. The simple fact is, lower-limb bionics are dominated by a few large companies that don’t generate a lot of research news, at least not compared to all the bionic hand startups.
However, one area that’s received increased attention in recent years is the use of bionic technology to assist people with lower levels of mobility. This wasn’t the case for the first 20 years of the bionic knee industry, when microprocessor knees targeted only higher-mobility patients. But all this began to change in 2015 with Ottobock’s launch of the Kenevo Knee — the first bionic knee specifically designed for users who can only navigate low-level environmental barriers, typically at reduced speed.
A few weeks ago, we ran across a 3-part symposium titled, “Microprocessor controlled knees in lower mobility grades”. This is aimed primarily at industry professionals and is a bit dry compared to the videos that we normally share, but it is so informative regarding the potential benefits of bionic knees to low-mobility users that we simply had to post all 3 parts here:
Note that most of the information in these presentations was paid for by Ottobock, which obviously has a vested interest in characterizing the Kenevo as a success. So don’t run out a buy a Kenevo based on these presentations alone!
But if you are a low-mobility user, we do think that this information justifies exploring the possible use of a bionic knee. And if you decide to do this, we hope that what’s shown in these presentations will help convince your prosthetist and/or your insurer to help you do so!
Bionic Hands Designed for Use with Mobile Devices
A few months ago, we conducted a virtual sweep of the world looking for new bionic limbs.
We were astounded to discover 8 new bionic hands already on the market or close to launch, plus another 5 in earlier stages of development, all of which you can read about in our article, Worldwide Explosion in Bionic Hand Technology Continues. Added to the devices that we already cover, this made for 27 bionic hands from around the globe!
The other thing that surprised us was the high level of innovation among these companies. People are re-imagining bionic hands in many new and interesting ways, including:
- powerful new control systems based on machine learning, pattern recognition, etc.;
- cloud-based “mothership” systems that support collective learning and automatic updates;
- self-adapting grips;
- increased sensory feedback;
- Integration with the internet and electronic scanning systems.
Well, we just got another surprise. Despite our efforts to be thorough, we missed one of these bionic hand innovators, a company called Motorica out of Moscow, Russia, which seems to be a growing hotbed of bionic hand development activity. Here’s a quick look at one of their innovations, namely the use of graphene nanotubes in fingerstalls, made of electrically conductive silicones, which allows their bionic fingers to interact with any kind of touchscreen:
Is this a big deal? Why, yes it is. Those with upper-limb differences enjoy their mobile devices every bit as much as the rest of us. Newer bionic companies are finally responding. Instead of just turning out devices that replace the basic functions of lost limbs, these companies are starting to cater to the needs and desires of those with limb differences, which we view as a sign of respect.
Are you interested in bionic limb research? If so, see our complete selection of research articles.
For a comprehensive description of all current upper-limb technologies, devices, and research, see A Complete Guide to Bionic Arms & Hands.
For a comprehensive description of all current lower-limb technologies, devices, and research, see A Complete Guide to Bionic Legs & Feet.