We've all heard of people with prosthetic limbs climbing mountains, running marathons, and accomplishing incredible athletic feats. But mechanical aids are now no longer limited to a select group of people. With the Cyborg Leg developed by Japanese scientists at Tsubaka University, ordinary runners can increase their muscle power and running speed.
The Cyborg Leg is not designed to aid disabled people or for rehabilitation purposes. Instead, it is attached to a normal leg, and powered by a device stored in a small backpack. The entire kit weights 11 pounds and makes it possible for someone to run 4.7 miles an hour with only 70% of the muscle power ordinarily required. A small motor attached to the back of the knee helps flex the knee muscles, and a sensor detects how much the knee is flexed. There is even a safety lever attached to the calf.
The developers at Tsubasa University think a lighter device can be developed within three years. However, other people in the scientific community wonder if the added eleven pounds might not negate the lessening of muscle power required to run. Furthermore, as most joggers run for their own health, a device to run faster seems rather superfluous. The NFL also does not allow such running augmentation. One possibe use of the Cyborg Leg is for use in the military. Other than that, the vast majority of common people may not receive much benefit, or indeed express much interest in, such a product as the Cyborg Leg.
With the Japanese dominance in the field of robotics, developments like the Cyborg Leg are only to be expected, and may lead to even more exciting things. The era of giant mecha fighting robots may be near. At the very least, Gundam fans can appreciate the future usages of this motorized knee.