A joint project involving BruBotics and Axiles Bionics has been granted €2 million in development capital to work on creating a bionic foot for patients who have had lower limbs amputated.
BruBotics is the Brussels Human Robotics Research Center of the Free University VUB, while Axiles Bionics is a spin-off from the university.
Together, the two are working on developing an artificial foot for amputees that, unlike prosthetics to date, replicates as far a possible the actions of a real human foot. The project involves advanced robotics, artificial intelligence and human biomechanics.
The human foot, our most distant of appendages, is actually a miracle of bio-engineering. Not only is it enormously complicated anatomically, from an engineering point of view has to withstand huge amounts of stress.
Take one step, and the foot and ankle have to take on the entire weight of the human body, then roll it forward onto the toes, which then have to launch the entire body forward, to be picked up by the other foot, and so on.
And that’s only walking, when one foot is always on the ground. Human feet also manage to run – no feet on the ground – as well as jump, land and roll.
Impossible feats of engineering, which nonetheless we manage to do (some, at leat) on a daily basis.
BruBotics has been researching the myriad questions in this discipline for 13 years, with the support of Innoveris, the Brussels region’s agency for research.
Axiles is a spin-off from that research – a common way for universities to ring-fence certain areas of research to allow funding from outside without compromising the academic independence of the basic research.
“Within our vision of artificial intelligence and robotics for the common good, it is important that our research does not remain in the lab, but is used both to solve societal challenges and to create new economic markets,” said Professor Dr. Bram Vanderborght, head of BruBotics.
“Further collaboration with Axiles Bionics is an important step in overcoming disabilities.”
The specific task of Axiles is to work on making the movement of a lower-limb prosthesis as functional as the human foot – a gargantuan task, given the variables involved.
Exactly one year ago, the project raised €2.9 million to fund the research.