Amputated Korean soldier gets Korea’s first commercial robotic leg

2018.12.13 13:29:44 | 2018.12.13 13:30:31

Army Staff Sgt. Kim Jung-won, left, is pictured talking about a commercial prosthetic leg. Kim participated in the robotic prosthesis project from its development phase. [Photo by Korea Institute of Machinery & Materials]이미지 확대

Army Staff Sgt. Kim Jung-won, left, is pictured talking about a commercial prosthetic leg. Kim participated in the robotic prosthesis project from its development phase. [Photo by Korea Institute of Machinery & Materials]

Korean researchers have successfully developed a commercially viable ‘smart’ robotic prosthetic leg that perfectly simulates a human’s walking gait, providing wearers with a much more natural fit and less fatigue and pain compared to bulky comparators.

The new prosthetic leg was Wednesday unveiled by a Daegu-based cross-functional technology research center under Korea Institute of Machinery & Materials. The actual power output or torque can be ramped up to match the level of the world’s best prosthetic system.

Another key feature is its lightweight and compact size realized by high-power integrated driving module technology. It weighs only 1㎏ or so. Its full length is 44 percent shorter than that of an ordinary prosthesis, giving more freedom in body applications, according to the center.

[Photo by Korea Institute of Machinery & Materials]이미지 확대

[Photo by Korea Institute of Machinery & Materials]

The first commercial product was presented to Army Staff Sergeant Kim Jeong-won, 27, who has become an amputee from an explosion of a land mine planted by North Korea in the demilitarized zone in Paju, northern Gyeonggi, in 2015.

Helped by a military hospital, the research team analyzed Kim’s walking pattern for two months and tailored the prosthetic leg to fit Kim’s body condition. In a trial, Kim walked with the new prosthesis without walking aids immediately after an hour of training. “Unlike other prosthetic legs, this smart robot leg is very soft and feels like it is a real one,” Kim was quoted as saying.

The smart prosthetic leg is retailed at 20 to 30 million won ($26,700), about one-fourth the price of similar-class products overseas.

By Ahn Do-won and Minu Kim

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