Dancing Feet: New Bionic Leg Designed to Cut a Rug

IMAGE: JAMES DUNCAN DAVIDSON

IMAGE: JAMES DUNCAN DAVIDSON

Nearly a year ago, professional dance instructor Adrianne Haslet-Davis lost her left leg below the knee in the Boston Marathon bombings. After significant time in rehabilitation, she built up her strength and learned how to function and thrive in her prosthesis. But there was still one thing she could not do — dance. Thanks to Hugh Herr, the director of the Biomechatronics Group at the MIT Media Lab, and his new bionic dancing leg, her dream is now a reality.

Yep, you read that right — a bionic leg made just for dancing. For months and months, researchers at MIT examined dancers and the way they move. From Mashable:

They tracked points of the subject’s body as it moved across a floor made of large sensors that measure things like torque and movement. Using that data, they developed a control algorithm that links sensors on the limb to a motor inside of it — making it function like a spinal cord. In Herr’s words, he “stole from nature” to create a synthetic material that moves like flesh and bone.

This is completely new — there have been no prostheses designed specifically for dance before. But this isn’t the first time Hugh Herr has designed a special prosthesis to help someone following their passion. At the age of 17, Hugh lost both his legs in a mountain climbing accident. He has since designed several prosthetic limbs that he himself uses, including a pair made just for mountain climbing.

While the bionic dancing leg — and all the other bionic limbs Herr has created — are seriously cool, they are also seriously expensive. Right now, they are not available to everyone. But as time goes on and newer, more inexpensive ways are found to design and build them, hopefully they will become more accessible.

We want to hear from you! What do you think of this bionic technology? If it were commercially available, would you try it?

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