General manager and CTO Rick Casler confirmed the company’s latest round to MassDevice, but declined to elaborate on how the proceeds will be used. Casler said the company plans to release an official announcement early next month.
iWalk makes the PowerFoot One, touting it as the world’s first actively powered prosthetic ankle and foot. The firm was launched in August 2006 using technology developed by co-founder Hugh Herr, a professor at the Mass. Institute of Technology. At a conference in Boston last June, Herr, who is a double amputee and uses the PowerFoot himself, explained how the device was different from other prosthetics.
“These robotic ankles I’m wearing are different from conventional replacement ankles, which use springs,” Herr said. “Seventy percent of amputees have back problems when they’re older, from the impact of the springs on the ground. With these [ankles], when I hit the ground, it’s very soft.”
He also told attendees that “smarter” prosthetics could potentially lead to cost savings.
“Broadly speaking, we can reduce healthcare costs by having smarter, more adaptive technologies,” he said. “When an elderly person falls and breaks their hip, they end up going into acute care. Think of a robotic boot that can correct people who are about to fall or counter-tops that can turn to pillows when someone is falling.”
General Catalyst Group, also based in Cambridge, led iWalk’s investment round. Early funding for the firm came from WFD Ventures of New York, the U.S. Veterans Administration and the U.S. Army’s Advanced Technology Research Center.
According to iWalk’s website, the PowerFoot uses a pair of microprocessors and a half-dozen environmental sensors to evaluate and adjust ankle position, stiffness, damping and power thousands of times each second. Additionally, control algorithms generate human-like force while walking across level ground, slopes or stairs, providing amputees with a near-normal gait.