Spotlight TEDx Talk: Robotic limbs you control with your mind


TEDxGöteborg speaker Max Ortiz Catalan with his bionic creation (Photo: Max Ortiz Catalan)

Max Oritz Catalan is dedicated to making prosthesis better. At TEDxGöteborg, the researcher explains how his group at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden is working to make that happen — through bone-anchored robotic prosthetics controlled by implanted electrodes.

Traditional prostheses work through compressing soft tissue to create suspension to operate, Oritz Catalan says in his talk, and with that process often comes pain, discomfort and limited mobility for the user.

“It is not uncommon to meet patients that — although they have the resources to afford the most expensive prosthesis — will choose not to use anything at all because the functionality is so poor that at the end of the day they’re better off without it,” Oritz Catalan says. “Functionality, reliability, ease of use, [are all] very important in prosthetic devices.”

But even fairly new bionic devices have their pitfalls, he says. Most bionic limbs operate through surface electrodes attached to a patient’s skin, Oritz Catalan says, and these surface-mounted electrodes offer patients limited control.

Oritz Catalan’s new device improves the prosthetic experience through two main ways, he says. One, the device is anchored in bone, rather than attached by compressing a limb socket. “We move from suspension to fixation,” he says, “which is a lot better mechanical coupling — we get rid of the problems related to the socket,” like blistering and painful friction. And, two, says Oritz Catalan, the device offers users greater mobility through the use of implanted electrodes rather than surface ones.

“If you go inside the body, you have access to more muscles,” he says. “You have more reliable signals, and you have access to nerves. Nerves carry the control information from every muscle in your limbs, but also information from the sensors in your hand back to your brain. And, more importantly, those neural pathways are still there after an amputation.”

To learn more about how this creation works, watch the whole talk below:

Insight from the TEDx office: Why we like this talk
The speaker presents cutting-edge research with a direct, easy-to-understand explanation, without oversimplifying his idea. He is a qualified research scientist with support from a university who uses examples from his research, his field and others’ work to present this technology and the implications of its wider use.


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