INOPRO is one of two new BMBF innovation clusters involving partners from industry (small and medium enterprises), academia and the healthcare sector that aim to develop highly innovative intelligent prostheses, orthotics, interactive micro-implants and other medical products. INOPRO will investigate ways to produce intelligent prostheses and orthotics that actively adapt to user needs, help improve quality of life and enable intuitive communication between device and user. To these ends, the systems to be developed must be capable of adapting to the behavior of the user and the environment. Simpler and more intuitive control, combined with sensory feedback and active assistance to compensate for lost abilities, should increase user safety and confidence. Lightweight, comfortable and low-noise systems with an appealing, anthropomorphic appearance will be used to give the prosthetic limbs an even more natural look and feel.
Within the INOPRO consortium, ITAS is responsible for its own cross-cutting project (“ELSI of Intelligent Orthotics and Prosthetics”), a work package that is linked directly to the coordination of the overall project and will be pursued in close cooperation with all sub-projects, including one led by the High Performance Humanoid Technologies (H²T) Lab at KIT’s Institute for Anthropomatics and Robotics (IAR). The ITAS work package is intended primarily to identify, analyze and give practical consideration to the ethical, legal and societal implications (ELSI) of the research and development conducted in the overall project. Besides questions of applied ethics with respect to the individual and society (e.g. questions of distributive justice and equity of supply), the ITAS work package will focus on further aspects of technology assessment and responsible research and innovation, such as user acceptance and cultural and socioeconomic aspects. In this respect, the ways in which the body is perceived, both by the users themselves and by others, and the manner in which prostheses are incorporated into everyday life are relevant, as are the ways in which society perceives prostheses and physical handicaps. With a view to obtaining a comprehensive understanding of ELSI, the results of all kinds of different research fields and disciplines – e.g. medical ethics, law, rehabilitation sciences, disability studies, health technology assessment and various social, cultural and policy studies – will be taken into account with respect to the topics of the overall project.