AI Helps Amputees Walk With a Robotic Knee

IEEE Spectrum Robotics 

A movie montage for modern artificial intelligence might show a computer playing millions of games of chess or Go against itself to learn how to win. Now, researchers are exploring how the reinforcement learning technique that helped DeepMind's AlphaZero conquer the chess and Go could tackle an even more complex task--training a robotic knee to help amputees walk smoothly. This new application of AI based on reinforcement learning--an automated version of classic trial-and-error--has shown promise in small clinical experiments involving one able-bodied person and one amputee whose leg was cut off above the knee. Normally, human technicians spend hours working with amputees to manually adjust robotic limbs to work well with each person's style of walking. By comparison, the reinforcement learning technique automatically tuned a robotic knee, enabling the prosthetic wearers to walk smoothly on level ground within 10 minutes.