Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning have significantly changed our lives in numerous ways. It has transformed the way we work and the way we live. It is an increasingly popular technology that heavily impacts us on a societal and ethical level. The history of prosthetics has come a long way since its beginning. With the application of AI and machine learning in the advancement of prosthetics, the users have more control over using it the way they desire. In this article, we will learn how code is helping with the development of better prosthetics, its impact on the user experiences, and the future of prosthetics.

The history of AI in the innovation of prosthetics and orthotics

The introduction of AI in the prosthetics and orthotics industry has come as a boon for people with disabilities. Many leading rehabilitation aids manufacturers have been using technological innovations to stimulate various anatomical and biomechanical functions of the lost parts of the human body. 

The history of the uses of technological advancements in prosthetics is an important aspect that we need to know about:

  • In 1993, the first-ever intelligent prosthesis was developed by Chas. A. Blatchford & Sons Limited. They also came up with an improved version of the same in 1995 known as the Intelligent Prosthesis Plus.
  • In 1998, Blatchford designed an adaptive prosthesis that combined the mechanisms of microprocessor, pneumatics, and hydraulics. 
  • In 2007, Touch bionics introduced the first-ever commercially available bionic hand. 
  • In 2010, Ottobock designed the Michelangelo hand, a fully articulated robotic hand with an electronically stimulated thumb.

The successful journey of prosthetics – From Egyptian mummies to New-age innovations.

Guess what? The use of prosthetics in humans can be dated 3000 years back! In 2011, archaeologists discovered one of the oldest prosthetics ever known to mankind, an artificial toe from an Egyptian mummy. And it was not just for cosmetic purposes but had functionality too. After testing replicas, researchers found that they indeed had practical usage. So the journey of prosthetics has indeed been very long. Throughout the years, doctors and researchers have come up with innovations in prosthetics like the introduction of robotic prostheses.  

In 2008, researchers presented a paper that showcased, monkeys could control a mechanized arm with their brain activity, thanks to the electrodes embedded in their brains. This study led to developments in human handiness like the Modular Prosthetic Limb in 2011 and 2020. Something unbelievable, as of now, happened – patients with mind-controlled artificial arms could experience touch sensations with the help of the new implant system. 

New technologically innovative prosthetic solutions that upgrade user-experience

Prosthetic limbs nowadays have so much more to offer. Innovations like imbibing AI and machine learning technologies, 3D printing, smart electronics, and sensors have entirely changed people’s lives with Disabilities. 

Here are some examples of newer advancements in prostheses:

  1. limbU – It is developed by Troy Baverstock from Australia’s Griffith University and uses the concepts of 3D printing to create a prosthetic leg extension. limbU uses smart electronics and sensors to make its user responsive to both internal and external stimuli. It has several functions, including monitoring movements of the body, tracking the user’s location, performing phone browsing, and sharing rehabilitation updates with the user’s doctor. 
  2. Trac Patch – Developed by Össur in collaboration with the US-based Alfred Mann Foundation, it is a lightweight, mind-controlled prosthetic limb. It can collect the patient’s regular movements and activities and transfer them to the concerned doctor. If the patient underwent orthopedic surgery, the above feature ensures active care during recovery. The device also has provisions to encourage and motivate the patients throughout the healing process.
  3. Avocado – It is an India-based smart prosthesis that is AI-enabled. It is a wrist connector with a minute mechanical adapter and device that upgrades the existing prosthetic user for a powered prosthetic arm along with battery conservation. It is designed to perform daily activities like gardening, writing, lifting things, and other hectic doings like picking heavy things and plowing. 

Newer innovations that change the look and ‘feel’ of prosthetics

Today, with the boon of technological advancements to mankind, people with arm amputations can experience touch sensations in a mind-controlled arm prosthesis that they use daily. It’s a progressive concept for artificial limbs, called neuromusculoskeletal prostheses, since they are connected to the user’s nerves, muscles, and skeleton. This concept has many never-seen-before features, like

  • It is fully mind-controlled, and the user can experience sensations previously perceived from the missing hand. 
  • It is long-lasting and safe to use daily. Users need no supervision from doctors, or anyone else to carry on with their everyday activities.

Recently, Harvard Innovation Lab came up with a wearable with a brain-machine interface. Similarly, BrainRobotics is a prosthetic hand controlled by the wearer’s mind. 

Smart prosthetics have come a long way and need to go longer. It is the need of the hour that Persons with Disabilities can lead their daily lives with ease. The use of newer technologies such as AI and machine learning in prosthetics has changed the way they look and feel. Technological advancements have introduced greater features and applications for prosthetic limbs in humans. Previously unbelievable features, like touch sensations, look plausible in artificial limbs in the present times. This gives hope and promises a better life to people with disabilities in the near future. 

What do you think about the future of smart prosthetics? If you liked this blog by BYJU’S FutureSchool, share your thoughts with us below. 

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