Role of robotics in Prosthetics and Orthotics

The rehabilitation community is at the threshold of a new age in which orthotic and prosthetic devices will no longer be separate, lifeless mechanisms, but intimate extensions of the human body—structurally, neurologically and dynamically. Prosthetics and orthotics devices employ a force controllable actuator and a biomimetic control scheme that automatically modulates ankle impedance and motive torque to satisfy patient-specific gait requirements. Although the device has some clinical benefits, problems still remain. The force-controllable actuator comprises an electric motor and a mechanical transmission, resulting in a heavy, bulky, and noisy mechanism. As a resolution of this difficulty, we argue that electroactive polymer-based artificial muscle technologies may offer considerable advantages to the physically challenged, allowing for joint impedance and motive force controllability, noise-free operation, and anthropomorphic device morphologies.

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