India’s fabulous performance at the paralympic games in Rio earlier this year is not only a cause for a lot of pride but the effort put in by the para-athletes has just proven – yet again – how those with physical challenges are much stronger and more capable than those of us who are fortunate to have all our limbs intact.
Well, come October 8, two more Indians will compete in the world’s first Cybathlon event in Zurich, and the challenge is greater. For the uninitiated, Cybathlon is an international competitive event that will see amputees using prosthetic limbs to perform regular tasks such as putting up clips, walking or even pouring a cup of coffee. Actions that we end up taking for granted. Many are even calling this the Cyborg Olympics. But there is a difference, the competition here is not so much as between the people but the prosthesis technology involved.
Entering into the discipline of the Powered Leg Prosthesis Race are two men from India, reported The Hindu. In the company of cutting-edge technology, carbon fibre and very expensively produced prostheses, Prajwal and Nagesh will reportedly compete with prosthetic legs made of a very unusual element – cane. Yes, the very same material used to make light-weight furniture, has been transformed into a prosthetic leg that could transform the life of millions of amputees.
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Made by a year-old, Bengaluru-based start-up, Rise Legs, these cane prosthetic legs are ingenious. Brainchild of Arun Cherian, a robotocist and engineer, who left a cushy job to create something that could very well change the world – for the better. Cherian, who was in the US, got the idea for this unusual prosthesis on a trip to India. He noticed how cane furniture was made by bending the stem in such beautiful shapes that could also hold human weight, “which essentially meant it was a spring”. Impressed by the pliability, strength and spring-like quality of the cane, Cherian had one question – Can you make a leg out of cane?
According to a bio-video on the company’s site, Cherian went to a local cane artist, Rahman Abdul, and asked him if he could bend cane into an L-shape to be made into a leg. Shocked at the unusual intent, Abdul hesitantly agreed and collaborated with Cherian to make “legs with which people can not just walk, but also run, play and dance”, said the Rise Legs founder in a video that has subsequently gone viral, with more than 200,000 views in less than a day.
According to the video, a metal prosthesis can cost up to $70,000. In contrast, a can leg starts at just $150. Thus, making it more accessible to more people. The strength of the cane leg will now be put to test by Prajwal and Nagesh at the Cybathlon. According to The Hindu, Prajwal is a bodybuilder and fitness trainer, and Nagesh an IT professional. The two have reportedly been trained by a volunteer at Rise Legs and are currently in Zurich for the Cybathlon.