Bristol Robotics Lab develops prosthetic leg for Paralympic hopeful

Academics at UWE Bristol’s robotics laboratory are working on improving the design and comfort of prosthetic legs and their sockets

Two tech entrepreneurs at UWE Bristol are working with the university’s robotics lab to develop an improved prosthetic leg for Paralympics hopeful Tania Goddard.

Mike Rose and Mayur Hulke are working with the robotics lab’s Dr Appolinaire Etoundi to develop a more comfortable prosthetic socket for Goddard.

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Two years ago, Goddard approached Dr Etoundi to develop a socket to house her prosthetic leg and avoid common discomforts such as chafing and excessive temperatures.

Etoundi is a senior lecturer in mechatronics at UWE Bristol and uses inspiration from systems found in nature to optimise rehabilitation devices such as prosthetic limbs. He has a background in mechanical engineering and is working to identify the cause behind prosthetic limb discomforts.

He said: “The aim is to develop an intelligent socket that will adapt to the patient’s condition through the use of artificial intelligence and composite materials to determine when there are fluctuations in temperature and pressure within the socket.”

UWE robotics student Mike Rose will provide a design for the limb, which is able to measure internal changes occurring in the socket using sensors. The sensors will collect data which will then pass through a deep learning algorithm before being processed into a useable format.

This work is giving me real hope to be able to walk again, and it could help thousands of amputees across the world, because if they can get a socket design to fit me, then it will fit anyone.
– Tania Goddard

Rose said: “Our current research involves looking to electromyography (EMG) and mechanomyography (MMG) sensors and understanding how their react to the subtle movements of human muscles.

“Working very closely with Dr Etoundi, we are currently using the data from EMG sensors to see how we can manipulate robotic systems such as artificial lower limbs and prosthetic sockets.”

Artificial intelligence and computer vision engineer Mayur Hulke will work alongside Rose and user experience designer Diana Kviatkovskaja to develop a form of artificial intelligence that enables the technology to work proactively in adjusting to, and supporting each patient’s individual needs.

Hulke said: “We are now able to combine biological human sensory systems with smart external limbs and this will help individuals to overcome certain physical limitations and, in some cases, restore their quality of life.”

Goddard was previously a police support community officer in South Bristol, and had her leg amputated in 2012 due to a medical condition. She has yet to find a socket that is pain-free.

She said: “After 15 NHS sockets in two years and being told they were unable to help me lead a normal life, I thought I had to face living the rest of my life in a wheelchair.

“This work is giving me real hope to be able to walk again, and it could help thousands of amputees across the world, because if they can get a socket design to fit me, then it will fit anyone. All I ever wanted to was to be able to go back out on patrol as a police officer and be a proper mum to my children.”

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Goddard is part of the British Shooting Talent Pathway Programme for Team GB, and hopes to compete in the Paralympic Games, either in Tokyo 202 or Paris 2024.

For more information about the Bristol Robotics Lab, visit their website here.