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A simple yet brilliant invention from India might just change the world

3 min read

Better Society
A simple yet brilliant invention from India might just change the world
Source: None

Rise Legs is a cost-effective, lightweight, springy, cane-based prosthetic leg designed so amputees can walk and stand for longer, run, play and even dance!

Using local knowledge and materials to bring low-cost, quality prosthetics to India

Made by Bengaluru-based start-up, Rise Legs, these cane prosthetic legs are a stroke of genius. Brainchild of roboticist and engineer, Arun Cherian, who left a comfortable job and quit his PhD to create something that could well change the world for the better.

A leg that could allow people to run, play, and dance. “I wanted to create a cost effective leg that was also functionally effective, a good value proposition to the users,” Arun says. “One that could allow people to run, play, and dance.” Source: Facebook/ThisIsZinc

At the time of India’s 2011 census, around 26.8 million Indians reported living with a disability

Arun Cherian has always been interested in locomotion, building bio-inspired robots and orthotics as an engineering student at prestigious research universities like Purdue, Berkeley, and Columbia. But through his work in labs at home in India, and throughout the US, something stuck with Arun: he wasn’t being taught to design with end users in mind.

“During that time, I learned a lot about how not to design,” says Arun, who attended one of our International Development Design Summits in India this summer. “Lots of PhDs sitting around a table thinking through the smartest thing they can add to the product. It’s only after we made advanced prototypes that we went to the users. It’s a bad way to design. ” 

It was when Arun returned home for his sister’s wedding that he first pondered a question that would turn out to be life changing.

“In Kerala, we have cane furniture bent in all of these beautiful ways and it takes a lot of weight. It’s basically a spring. Biomechanically, our leg is also a spring of tuned stiffness. In fact, biomechanically, all animals pretty much have the same leg stiffness to body weight ratio. And I wondered if you could make a prosthetic leg of tuned stiffness out of cane,” Arun explains. 

At the time of India’s 2011 census, around 26.8 million Indians reported living with a disability. Arun points to Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS), the creators of the Jaipur Foot, as an organisation that has done “phenomenal” work to address this enormous challenge. BMVSS provides its products and services, including the Jaipur Foot, to the disabled completely free of charge. But Arun admits, the Jaipur Foot has its downsides: it’s often not fitted well and it’s heavy, tiring its users out.

Source: idin.org Main Photo: HelixNorthwestern

Rise Legs uses washable fabric that can be printed with a skin tone color matched to the user or with crazy color and fun patterns depending on the user’s preference.
Arun continues to add thoughtful touches to his designs, always keeping his customers and their needs in mind Rise Legs uses washable fabric that can be printed with a skin tone color matched to the user or with crazy color and fun patterns depending on the user’s preference. Source: Facebook/RiseLegs
The benefits of the new prosthetics are numerous.
Why Rise Legs? The benefits of the new prosthetics are numerous. Source: www.idin.org

Qualities that make local cane ideal for Arun’s purpose

There are a number of qualities that make local cane an ideal material for Arun’s purpose;

  • Cane is not a cash crop, so few people outside of the furniture industry use it. 
  • Cane is a creeper, so it grows with a consistent diameter from end to end unlike seemingly similar plants like bamboo and trees that taper from top to bottom, and this consistency in diameter makes it an idea engineering material.
  • It’s readily available: it literally grows on trees!it’s important to use the right kind of cane. He relied on local knowledge to choose the ri    
But Arun emphasises that it’s important to use the right kind of cane. He relied on local knowledge to choose the right kind from the dozens that grow locally. He is now systematically documenting this artisanal knowledge and scientifically testing its veracity.

All this research and development was put to the test at the 2016 Cybathlon

The strength of the cane leg was put to test at the 2016 Cybathlon The Cybathlon is an international competition organised by ETH Zurich for disabled competitors allowed to use bionic assistive technology, such as robotic prostheses, brain-computer interfaces and powered exoskeletons. Source: Youtube/RiseLegs
Arun Cherian, top left, with his sporty team that looks beyond disability. As well as prosthetic limbs, Arun also designs lightweight, durable sporting wheelchairs from the same materials.
India’s entrants in the Cybathlon put Rise Legs prosthetics to the ultimate test Arun Cherian, top left, with his sporty team that looks beyond disability. As well as prosthetic limbs, Arun also designs lightweight, durable sporting wheelchairs from the same materials. Source: TheBetterIndia.com
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