For Scientists & Engineers
The Revolutionizing Prosthetics program is an enormous scientific research and advanced development effort that is enabling development of many exciting new technologies. Each of the three key elements of the program—the Modular Prosthetic Limb; the neural interface, including devices and signal processing/control algorithms; and the Virtual Integration Environment—have contributed to state-of-the-science applications.
Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL)
The MPL, with its many advanced capabilities, can support varied uses as a prosthetic, human assistive device, or general robotic device. Technical advancements were made by the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program in the following areas:
Revolutionizing Prosthetics has resulted in a modular and extensible limb with unprecedented degrees of freedom and controllable dexterity featuring:
- Open system architecture bus structure
- Open system principles for electronics and hardware components
- Three-degrees-of-freedom shoulder
- Integrated powerful elbow with active extension
- Three-degrees-of-freedom wrist assembly
- Articulated hand (10 actuated joints)
The alternate actuation studies furthered the development of:
- Very-small-scale, powerful, and efficient integrated motors and transmissions
- Mesofluidics (full limb and dexterous hand applications for robotics)
- Monopropellants, which are also applicable to robotics, particularly in extreme and austere environments (because of the unique catalytic system)
- COBOT, a technology that has been demonstrated and can lead to many advanced applications (infinitely variable transmission with multiple independent outputs)
There have been a wealth of developments in the very-small-scale integrated sensors arena, with potential application to robotics, teleoperation, and other fields.
There are potential applications for technologies that enhance suspension or secure attachment to the body, distribution of total weight, distribution and stabilization of dynamic forces, and heat dissipation for both military and civilian use.
Advanced materials have potential applications in contaminated environments.
Virtual Integration Environment (VIE)
The VIE is a simplified, platform-independent communication interface to the MPL. It revolutionized neuroscience and prosthetics research and development by creating a common playing field that researchers and developers around the world can use to simulate and test new ideas. The VIE is used to visualize and monitor the performance of various design approaches, pilot neural signal analysis algorithms, simulate emerging mechatronic elements, train end-users to control real or virtual neuroprosthetic devices, and configure and customize clinical and take-home devices.
Neural Interface (NI)
The NI encompasses the most significant technical challenges of the program—to directly interface with the body's nervous system for limb control and sensory feedback. Revolutionizing Prosthetics explored a variety of devices capable of acquiring electrical signals at their source locations: nerves and neuronal cells.
Revolutionizing Prosthetics: Systems Engineering Challenges and Opportunities (Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp. 186–197, 2011)