MANCHESTER -- Within a year or so, Jack Daly's left knee should work about as well as the knee of most 50 year olds, as long as he remembers to keep it charged.
Daly, a truck driver who lost both his legs in a highway accident last Halloween, is the first New Hampshire resident to be fitted with a waterproof, microprocessor-controlled knee that anticipates his movement and adjusts the prosthetic effortlessly.
The Ottobock X3 knee is the most technologically advanced prosthetic knee and was developed in collaboration with the U.S. military, according to Next Step Bionics and Prosthetics. Next Step fitted Daly with the $100,000 device Thursday.
"Watch TV over the years, and you knew this was inevitable," Daly said. "The technology to compensate for something that's not working, it's unbelievable."
Sophisticated prosthetic knees are not new. They use pistons and hydraulics, similar to a shock absorber. The piston extends or contracts based upon the force applied during the walking motion.
Daly's prosthetic contains gyroscopes and an accelerometer, which feed information to the microprocessor. The microprocessor makes adjustments at a rate of 50 per second, said Jason Lalla, the prosthetist working with Daly. "The knee anticipates what the person will do and makes the adjustments," he said.
Lalla compares the technology to that used on a Wii wand that controls a player's game. The new knee will still be a challenge for Daly. A double-leg amputee, he lacks the natural balancing mechanism found in his feet, Lalla said. And he walked with a cane on Thursday.
But the waterproof feature means Daly can take a swim in his backyard pool, prosthetics and all. "We'll see how the kicking goes," Daly said, "at least I can walk down the ladder and walk."