You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Innovators | Medical devices

His bionic ankle helps others walk

Hugh Herr, iWalk

Hugh Herr, iWalk founder

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

Hugh Herr, iWalk founder

THE WAY HUGH HERR sees it, he’s in the transportation business. Personal transportation.

Herr, 47, weaves titanium, silicon, carbon fiber and nuts and bolts into prosthetic devices for amputees. “Our devices have to work like a car, because of the same profound reliance that people have for locomotion,’’ said Herr, director of the Biomechatronics Group at the MIT Media Lab and founder of iWalk, a bionics company based in Bedford.

Continue reading below

The work is personal, too. Herr lost both of his lower legs 30 years ago in a hiking accident on Mount Washington. Last year, he introduced BiOM, the world’s first bionic ankle system, designed to work for millions and millions of steps while remaining reliable and comfortable. A wearable robotic system, the prosthetic can’t start to “rattle or hum’’ after long, daily use, Herr said. Veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the first to be fitted. They were able to walk out the door, leaving canes and crutches behind.

Stealing ideas from nature, Herr used robotics and software to imitate the actions of leg muscles and tendons. “Even if the limb is bionic, the goal is to have it move like skin and muscle,’’ he said. And one day, will we go beyond the current capabilities of the human body, like the Six-Million-Dollar Man?

According to Herr: “Absolutely.’’

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.