The iWalk Story
In 2003, as U.S. Armed Forces became immersed in combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Federal Government initiated the process of committing tens of millions of research dollars to visionaries, universities and manufacturers to ensure that wounded soldiers received the best technology available upon their return home. A significant portion of this investment was allocated for the advancement of technologies designed to improve the function of impaired or amputated limbs.
What was most notable about this round of commitment from the Federal Government, however, was not the amount of investment made, but the results. Over the past decade, under the visionary leadership of Hugh Herr, PhD and Director of Biomechatronics at MIT, one of these investments resulted in the development and commercialization of Personal Bionics—a new class of prosthetic technology that enables natural and personalized movements for individuals with lower-limb loss.
Dr. Herr, a double amputee and world-renowned mountain climber who lost both of his legs following a disastrous expedition on Mt. Washington in 1982, has pursued a lifelong quest to help others with limb pathology and to transcend the concept of disability for amputees across the country. With funding provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), Dr. Herr and his collaborators established the Powered Human Augmentation project and applied bionic technology to develop the first lower-extremity device that actually powers movement and enhances mobility.
The culmination of Dr. Herr’s research, engineering and clinical testing is the BiOM Ankle System, the first commercially available personal bionic intervention and powered ankle-foot device that restores the biomechanics of ankle-foot function across all walking speeds. The BiOM Ankle System provides artificial muscle power that enables amputees to walk with the same gait and the same effort as non-amputees—reducing fatigue and pain, improving stability and balance, and improving overall quality of life.
The BiOM Ankle System is the first in a series of products that will continue to emulate a specific individual’s muscle and tendon function. The technology is indicative of the true potential of Personal Bionics to provide personalized prosthetic technology to help amputees overcome mobility challenges, achieve goals and improve overall health.