Rehabilitating ankle muscles that have been dormant for months is no walk in the park. Trust me, I speak from experience, as I'm currently recovering from a shattered heel bone. However, a new robotic device could offer assistance to myself and others with more serious neuromuscular disorders like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis PHOTOS: 12 Ways We'll Keep High and Dry When Oceans Rise
Yong-Lae Park, an assistant professor in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, and his colleagues built a robo-ankle of sorts, using soft plastics and composite materials, rather than a rigid exoskeleton. The orthotic device includes pneumatic artificial muscles, small sensors and advanced control software to mimic the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the lower leg.
The artificial muscles are controlled by compressed air and circuits, which move the wearer's foot through a series of exercise movements designed to strengthen weak muscles and improve the ankle's range of motion while the patient is sitting. Future incarnations of the device may even allow for people to wear the device while going about their daily life. "Controlling the device using the wearer's motion or muscle intention is our ongoing and future work," Park told New Scientist.