Will I walk again? How next generation artificial limbs are shaping the future of medicine

September 4, 2020 12:00 - 1:30

Location: Virtual Room 2

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Will I walk again? Will I dance, write, play, cook and use my legs and hands as I used to? These are the questions people living with the loss of a limb ask.
It is estimated that there are 1.6 million amputees around the world and the number is expected to double by the year 2050. Most amputees use systems that are 30-40 years old in concept and design enabling stiff and unnatural movements. While the view that prosthesis will fuse with our bodies, allowing our brains to seamlessly control it (i.e. embodied technology) is intuitive, the reality is different. Amputees report that their prosthesis does not feel like a part of their body perhaps because the functionality of artificial limbs is severely restricted by the lack of somatosensory feedback. Hence, amputees often decide to reduce or abandon the use of prosthesis.
Developments in prosthetics have been substantial in the past decades but artificial limbs have a complexity that is currently beyond the possibilities of autonomous control by the user through the available man-machine interfaces.
Therefore, one of the biggest challenge nowadays in prosthetics development is to give back to the user the ability to feel and control the artificial limb as if it was their own limb.
The ERC is supporting frontier science tackling these challenges: experts in robotics, neuroscience, surgery and man-machine interface are synergistically working to creating a fully integrated, symbiotic replacement of missing or damaged parts of the human body with artificial limbs that the user will feel and command as a true part of their body.
The successful incorporation of robotics into our body and senses is expected to become a reality in the near future allowing us to answer these questions with a definitive “yes, you will”.

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