Zac Vawter, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident in 2009, will now be climbing 103 floors of the iconic Willis Tower using the first "bionic leg" that is controlled by his thoughts.
The bionic leg differs from a regular artificial leg in a way that the leg responds to Vawter's thoughts. "When Vawter pushes on the device to stand-up, the device reads his intent and pushes back on him propelling him up", says a news release from Rehabilitation Institution of Chicago where the bionic leg was designed.
"One of the biggest difference for me is being able to take stairs step-over-step like everyone else. With my standard prosthesis, I have to take every step with my good foot first and sort of lift or drag the prosthetic leg up. With the bionic leg, it's simple, I take stairs like I used to, and can even take two at a time," said Vawter.
Regular prosthetics also require about 60 percent more energy than a normal leg, to help the person walk, said Michael Goldfarb, director of the Center for Intelligent Mechatronics at Vanderbilt University.
The bionic leg is made of aluminum alloys and weighs about 9 pounds. The bionic leg even allows the wearer to walk with normal gait.
"There are approximately 600,000 individuals with lower limb amputation in the United States, and we are hopeful that this neural-controlled technology will allow for more ability and more long-term independence," said Levi Hargrove, PhD, Director of the Neural Engineering for Prosthetics & Orthotics Lab within RIC's Center for Bionic Medicine.
The Department of Defense has donated $8 million to the research and development of the bionic leg and Hargrove says that the experimental bionic leg will be required more testing before it is available commercially.
The event will be held at Willis Tower on November 4, 2012. "We'll have a good time. This is going to be a lot of fun," said Vawter to USA Today.