Mind-Controlled Bionic Legs Are Here. Welcome to the Future.

Mind-Controlled Bionic Legs Are Here. Welcome to the Future.
Source: Össur
Source: Össur

These are the first amputees to be able to subconsciously control their prosthetic lower limbs. How? With implants developed by Össur, an orthopedics company in Reykjavík, Iceland.

According to Reuters, Össur created tiny implanted myoelectric sensors to surgically install in patients' remaining leg-muscle tissue. These sensors then connect to a receiver in a prosthetic limb. Once attached, test patients said, it took only minutes to get the hang of their new bionic legs.

Össur's new bionic leg in action
Source: 
Össur

Össur said its technology is the first to use sensory implants to send signals between the muscles and the prosthesis. Previous devices used transplanted muscle tissue, which required the brain to relearn how to control the limb. This works much more quickly.

"As soon as I put my foot on, it took me about 10 minutes to get control of it," said patient Gummi Olafsson, who lost part of his leg in a childhood accident. "I could stand up and just walk away. Come back, sit down, use my muscles to move my foot in the position I wanted to use it ... You couldn't believe the feeling."

Olafsson told Reuters using the limb was "strange and overwhelming": "I was moving it with my muscles. There was nobody else doing it; the foot was not doing it, I was doing it."

Össur's Proprio foot.
Source: 
Össur

How it works: Thorvaldur Ingvarsson, an orthopedic surgeon and Össur's director of research and development, says the brain gives impulses directly to the sensor-injected muscles, which then contract in response. The sensors then act as a middle man, sending the brain's signals to the prosthetic legs, making them do whatever the wearer wants.

Source: Össur
Source: Össur
Source: Össur

"Our ultimate goal is to replace the function of the lost limb, and we've been doing so step-by-step and doing very well. However, as our technology [moves] on — you have sensors for muscles, you're able to replace function by the new mind-controlled prosthetics — the next step might be to get sensing from the environment so you have a feedback loop," Ingvarsson told Reuters

Össur's sensor-equipped bionic limbs include an extremely advanced knee, making it possible for amputees to move over uneven terrain, walk down steps and even stand upright on an incline while bearing a load — something that, without a good, functional knee, is difficult to do.

While the technology won't be publicly available for three to five years, this is a major leap forward for prosthetic limbs, and will hopefully spark other prosthetic companies to develop similar products. It may not be long before we see this sort of advanced prosthetic for extremely accessible prices.

h/t Reuters

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Max Plenke

Max Plenke is a staff writer at Mic, where he covers breaking news, climate science, health and the future. His work has appeared in Esquire, GQ and Wallpaper. Send story tips to max@mic.com.

MORE FROM

The 5 major people Donald Trump fired since taking office

Reince Priebus is just the latest high-profile person to be fired by Trump.

How brands battle for creativity and authenticity

In the age of call-out culture and brand boycotts, how can brands get it right the first time?

While You Weren’t Looking: 5 stories free from “skinny repeals” and the Mooch’s “colorful language”

Five stories you may have missed while trying to keep up with a chaotic news week.

In the shadow of Brooklyn’s luxury apartments, “canners” form a tight-knit community

For many lower income people in New York City, canning can be a safe and legal way to earn a living.

A Steve Bannon propagandist is turning the alt-right’s antihero Based Stick Man into a comic book

"We’re never going to change the culture from Washington. We’re going to do it from comics, from movies.”

NBC News chief wanted to dial back MSNBC's liberal identity. Then Trump got elected.

Some insiders say MSNBC is having an identity crisis — but the channel is having its best ratings year ever.

The 5 major people Donald Trump fired since taking office

Reince Priebus is just the latest high-profile person to be fired by Trump.

How brands battle for creativity and authenticity

In the age of call-out culture and brand boycotts, how can brands get it right the first time?

While You Weren’t Looking: 5 stories free from “skinny repeals” and the Mooch’s “colorful language”

Five stories you may have missed while trying to keep up with a chaotic news week.

In the shadow of Brooklyn’s luxury apartments, “canners” form a tight-knit community

For many lower income people in New York City, canning can be a safe and legal way to earn a living.

A Steve Bannon propagandist is turning the alt-right’s antihero Based Stick Man into a comic book

"We’re never going to change the culture from Washington. We’re going to do it from comics, from movies.”

NBC News chief wanted to dial back MSNBC's liberal identity. Then Trump got elected.

Some insiders say MSNBC is having an identity crisis — but the channel is having its best ratings year ever.