iWalk Creates Bionic Foot
Innovations in medical technology are zipping along with the same speed of other technologies, even if not everyone is aware of it. The field of prosthetics has advanced as well, but most prosthetics are still dumb (i.e. unpowered) and not really all that different from what was being used a century ago. A company named iWalk hopes to change that.
iWalk has created what is says is the first truly bionic prosthetic. The internally powered BiOM brings energy to the prosthesis with a high tech foot and ankle that propel the user forward, rather than requiring the user to give energy to the prosthetic. This reversal of the norm for prosthetics should help to reduce the chronic lower back pain and joint degradation suffered by many amputees.
What BiOM does is replicate the action of foot and ankle, Achilles tendon, and lower calf. By emulating the bone and soft tissues, it can provide exactly the right amount of energy needed, which makes it as efficient as people with intact limbs. People have told me that it feels like they have their ankle back. –Tim McCarthy, iWalk president and CEO
BiOM manages a better feel through the use of a modular lithium iron phosphate battery, biomimetic control firmware, a high-energy elastic spring actuator and a series of internal sensors. According to the company, the ability to produce a more natural feeling gait reduces the energy required to use the prosthetic, meaning amputees are less tired at the end of the day. The responsive feel of the BiOM also helps with balance, which – among other things – makes going up and down stairs easier.
The BiOM was developed at MIT and licensed to iWalk in 2007. Grants from the Veteran’s Administration and the Department of Defense have allowed iWalk to further advance the design, which went into production in 2010. iWalk plans to work with insurance companies and suppliers to keep prices as low as possible in order to provide a financially viable alternative to other prosthetics.
Below you’ll find a video about the BiOM.