Artificial intelligence (AI) for intuitive movements
What tells a hand prosthesis how it should move? And how does it know whether to close the fingers tightly and carry a briefcase, or extend a finger and use a keyboard? In the past, people with an amputation had to intensively learn to give their prosthesis complex signals via muscle contractions. Today, prostheses learn from their users. Thanks to electrodes that capture bio-signals in the residual forearm and thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), Ottobock prostheses are able to identify how the user wants to move. The prosthesis then automatically assigns these signals to the correct hand movement.
Control via smartphone and app
Right from the start, O&P professionals use a special app when fitting and adjusting this type of prosthesis. After this, users can manage and practise controlling the prosthesis themselves on their smartphone.
And if they give their consent, devices can even be serviced via the cloud in future. The prostheses will then be able to send direct feedback to Ottobock so we can optimise the technology and avoid potential errors before they occur.
Smart sensors and microprocessors
Ottobock introduced the C-Leg – the world’s first leg prosthesis to be controlled by microprocessors – back in 1997. The experiences we gained in the process led to the introduction of the Genium in 2011. This solution simulates a natural, physiological gait almost perfectly with the help of microprocessors, microsensors and micromotors. This enables users to move with maximum safety, even on difficult surfaces.
Combined advances in computer, sensor and motor technology mean that users can now use the prostheses for running, cycling and swimming. Users can simply select the various modes; an app on their smartphone is one way of doing so. This demonstrates how digital transformation is opening up new opportunities. At the same time, it also creates new requirements – so a special coating on Ottobock’s bebionic hand prosthesis now makes it easy to interact with touchscreens on mobile phones or tablets.
Lina with her bebionic hand
The key thing is what helps people
How 3D scanners and printers are revolutionising treatment for patients
To this day, plaster casts are made to adapt prostheses to patients as effectively as possible. But 3D scanners offer a faster, more convenient option. Ottobock has set up a platform called iFab – short for “individual fabrication” – that makes it possible to quickly produce custom orthoses and prostheses.
O&P professionals scan a residual limb and then process the data directly on a computer. Time that was once spent on manual work on the plaster cast – often a complex task – can now be channeled into the fitting process. Sources of errors are also minimised, as the processed data can be tested in a computer simulation and transferred directly to the carving robot and 3D printer. iFab digitises the entire fitting and fabrication process. Throughout, the focus is always on working hand in hand to provide the best possible treatment for the patient.
The five steps of digital fabrication
Digitising a craft
The digital ecosystem in iFab not only places a stronger focus on patients’ needs and interests during treatment. It also makes the related administrative processes easier for medical supply companies and orthopaedic technology businesses. Instead of sending off plaster models by post, they now transmit their data to Ottobock digitally via an online platform (the iFab Customer Centre). Fabrication receives the paperless order directly. Our iFab now lets specialist orthopaedic companies meet two key requirements at once by quickly producing custom devices. We support them as they make the transition to a plaster-free workshop and give them the digital tools they need to use our global Ottobock iFab fabrication sites as their extended workbench.
More time for people
In orthopaedic technology, digital transformation is not so much a revolution as an evolution that is permanently changing the profession. In future, the craftsmanship element will play a somewhat less prominent role. In return, there will be an even stronger focus on caring for patients. The iFab platform provides, for example, a crucial new intermediate step in patient treatment – namely, simulation. Using patients’ biometric data, a computer can now be used to check, even before it’s fabricated, whether the fitting solution will work as intended. This makes fabrication more precise, minimises potential errors and saves materials and time. This time can in turn be dedicated to face-to-face patient care.
Exoskeletons for industry and everyday life
Ottobock doesn’t just help people regain their mobility. We also use our experience to keep people healthy. Based on our knowledge of biomechanics and orthopaedics, we developed an exoskeleton that helps people during strenuous activities by relieving strain. The Paexo Shoulder exoskeleton, for instance, supports the back and upper arms during overhead work – which is useful in the automotive industry or for painting work.
The biomechanical and orthopaedic expertise Ottobock has gained over the course of more than 100 years can also be seen in the C-Brace® orthosis. This exoskeleton can make walking possible again for people with partial or total paralysis of the knee extensors. It responds immediately and intelligently to critical situations. Users no longer have to pay attention to each and every step. The integrated microprocessor regulates the gait cycle on uneven terrain or slopes – and users can even walk down stairs step-over-step again with the C-Brace®.