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Climber Designs Bionic Prosthetic Limbs for Himself and Other Amputees

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Hugh Herr, Princess of Asturias Awards for Technical & Scientific Research 2016 attend the Princesa de Asturias Awards 2016 ceremony at the Campoamor Theater on October 21, 2016 in Oviedo, Spain. (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)
Hugh Herr, Princess of Asturias Awards for Technical & Scientific Research 2016 attend the Princesa de Asturias Awards 2016 ceremony at the Campoamor Theater on October 21, 2016 in Oviedo, Spain. (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

 

Hugh Herr didn’t let a horrific childhood tragedy that led to double amputation slow him down—not when the mountain climber could design himself robotic legs to scale the impairment.

At 17, Herr lost his legs to frostbite after straying off the trail on a hike. By 18, he was using his prosthetics to scale cliff faces in ways nobody had seen.

Realizing the potential technology had to augment human ability, Herr was inspired to get to work designing bionic limbs—starting with his own. The cutting-edge prosthetics contain technology that assists the amputee with movement. The company BionX created legs with military-grade technology to make them lighter and more precise in their movements.

“The sensors measure force-of-heel strike, torque and angle of step [to] determine how much power needs to be delivered from a motor that drives the propulsion,” BionX CEO Charles Carignan told the New York Post.

At MITs Media Lab, Herr studies the movement of humans and other animals to perfect the technology. For example, the team looked at the gait or horses to help customize the length of Herr’s legs, so he can walk more naturally. Learn more about his work and his story in the video below:

 

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