While thousands of lives have been saved by better military medical care during the last decade, there is still a problem with the many troops who have lost capabilities (mobility, sight, hearing). This has led to taking a lot of the new technology that has been appearing over the last few decades and using it to create equipment that helps to replace the lost capabilities. One of the more active categories is artificial limbs to replace those that have been amputated. While most of the effort has gone into improving artificial limbs and developing functional exoskeleton like mobility devices, there have also been some ingenious and unexpected developments.
One of these surprises was the IDEO (Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis). This is a cross between a brace and a prosthesis that was designed (in 2009) to deal with the problem of troops who did not initially have a limb amputated but lost it later because it had atrophied and physical rehab was unable to bring it back (via exercising the atrophied muscle sufficiently to make the limb useful). IDEO deals with that problem by storing mechanical energy and using it to operate whatever parts of the device the user needs to exercise but not fully replace atrophied muscles. IDEO was designed to be highly customizable and can be adjusted to fit a wide range of limb damage.
Currently it is being used by nearly 500 wounded troops and has prevented at least a hundred amputations. Best of all it not only makes limb rehabilitation possible but speeds up the process and makes it much less frustrating and tedious for the patient. Most users of IDEO regain use of the injured limb, many to the point where they can return to service, even combat operations.