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A bionic leg controlled by the mind

Inspiring breakthrough in brain-powered prosthetics sees a bionic leg respond to its owner’s mind.

The advanced-movement prosthetic leg was created by a group of engineers, neuroscientists, surgeons, and prosthetists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and is the first of its kind, expanding on similar technology that has been used for brain-controlled prosthetic arms and hands.

The test-pilot is 31-year-old Zac Vawter, who lost his leg just above the knee in a motorcycle accident three years ago. The leg uses sensors that respond to muscle contractions in Zac’s thigh, so that all he needs to do is imagine moving his absent leg and the prosthetic puts his thoughts into motion. Wearing the leg, he was able to climb all 103 flights of stairs of the Willis Tower in Chicago – a feat that suggests a bright spark of hope for millions of amputees in the future.

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