17 July 2007

Revolutionising prosthetics through user-centred design

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Oscar Pistorius
This weekend I saw the amazing feat by the South African Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee, who ran with able bodied athletes for the first time in a high level competition (the Roma Golden League), and came in second. You can see it here on YouTube.

Now Business Week reports on how Ossur, the supplier for Pistorius, is using user-centred design to offer prosthetic feet with greater stability.

“Applying a user-centered design approach, the research-and-development team at Ossur—supplier for South African runner Oscar Pistorius, the controversial, first-ever amputee Olympic Games hopeful—regularly collects patient anecdotes relayed by clinicians in various nations, including Germany, Belgium, and the U.S. And Janusson, Ossur’s vice-president of R&D, spotted patterns in the feedback. Many amputees, Janusson and his team noticed, reported falling when wearing the very prosthetic feet that are meant to help them walk and move about.

But while other medical-device designers may have known about this problem, none came up with Ossur’s sophisticated solution: to create a truly lifelike foot that can react in real time to an amputee’s motion, similar to a biological appendage. And Janusson’s solution was to involve a technology never before used in the field of consumer prosthetics: artificial intelligence.”

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