Democratizing Prosthetics Research

We were compelled to create the Open-Source Leg after broader discussions in the field showed that the control of these technologies has been the greatest barrier preventing their clinical success. In the past, research of prosthetic hardware design and control has been done in silos. Each researcher develops their own robotic leg system on which to test their control strategies or biomechanical hypotheses. This has led to success in the short term, since each researcher produces publications and furthers knowledge. However, in the long term, this fragmented research approach prevents research results from impacting people with disabilities—culminating in an overarching failure of the field to truly have the impact that motivated it. Without a standardized hardware / software platform, it is difficult to compare results across research groups studying the control of these systems. In addition, continually recreating robotic legs for each group is costly in both time and money, preventing these resources from addressing the actual barriers that stem from the control of these systems. Indeed, the intricate challenges linked to various aspects of prosthetic leg control demands the collective effort of top researchers conducting pioneering work. Thus, to close this gap, we created an open-access platform that not only facilitates research of prosthetic control but also offers a common framework to test and evaluate these strategies—the Open-Source Leg.


Visualization of Open-Source Leg website traffic since June 2019, with darker colors indicating more traffic.
The website has been visited by 37,000 unique users from over 30 countries.

A History Rooted in Open-Source & Collaboration

We initially received funding through the NSF National Robotics Initiative, which enabled the development of the first-generation Open-Source Leg hardware. Secondly, we received funding to advance the torque control capabilities, which enabled the development of the second-generation hardware and emerging software libraries. In the NSF Pathways to Enable Open-Source Ecosystems (POSE) Phase I effort, we were able to continue advancement of the project website, as well as refine the software and hardware infrastructure.


This schematic describes the history of NSF funding that has enabled the development of the Open-Source Leg, in addition to its open-source ecosystem.

A Future with Attainable Goals

Our vision is to enable researchers around the world to develop and contribute to solving the challenges associated with the control of robotic leg prostheses, and that this work meaningfully improves the lives of those with lower limb amputation. We imagine researchers using our hardware and software tools easily obtained from this website, developing control strategies that enable these technologies to leave the laboratory and enter the real world. Some of our specific goals include:

  • Fostering community growth and engagement.
  • Continuing development and refinement of our open-source infrastructure.
  • Assessment of our open-source ecosystem's effectiveness and sustainability.

We strongly believe that the Open-Source Leg project will enable researchers to develop and test control strategies that will ultimately improve the lives of people with lower limb amputation. We hope that you will join us in this effort.