Archives for category: wearable robots

source

The bionic exoskeleton will never, ever cease to be an amazing product. It is, in every way, aligned with the evolution of man, from technology to function. We have developed as humans to walk, and not sit, and so a product that addresses the captivity of being wheelchair bound addresses the essence of what we are: bipedal creatures. The robotic exoskeleton technology has been breathtaking to observe as it evolves, from bulky and functional to increasingly light, mobile, and personalized.

The prosthetic world is undergoing a revolution, and has never seen such advances as in the last 10 years. The work behind it, the hours of labor, the intelligence of those who are painstakingly developing these products while trying to negotiate with the FDA for home and personal use may be unseen, but the finalized product’s beauty is visible. As technology advances, however, so does the cost, and many home units of motorized prosthetics are still out of financial reach for those that need it.

Phoenix by SuitX addresses these financial and functional concerns while presenting an amazing, modular, lightweight product. Weighing only 27 pounds, Phoenix allows 4 hours of continuous use between charges, and can be put on piece by piece for ease of use. Its adaptive fit also allows for a more minimalist design, which can allow for versatility and a generally more aesthetic approach.

SuitX’s mission to accept feedback from its users with constant research and development, gear the product toward versatile ambulatory use, and focus on making not only a highly functional but affordable product marks the shift toward a more approachable and attainable bionic exoskeleton for paraplegics.

Anyone that has ever observed anyone with a neurological injury that renders them paralyzed in the lower extremities understands the necessity of a device that allows them to stand and ambulate. A constant sedentary and inactive life wreaks havoc on a person’s health and is psychologically extremely difficult. For years, otherwise healthy and often young people have been given only a wheelchair as the answer to their injury, but thankfully this sentence is changing with devices such as Phoenix.

Watch the video below for a demonstration and explanation of this amazing product.

287.png

source

It is the exoskeleton which ignited my love for robotics, a device which both mirrors and enhances human function without replacing it. As with most technology, as the robotic exoskeleton develops it is moving away from bulky and functional to sleek and precise.

One such example of this development is the Cyclone Rope Piston by Rise Robotics. Rise Robotics has created an actuator (motor) which, paired with cables efficiently transfers power to the user. Just as a particular movement, such as holding something while bending and straightening the arm, is easier if a muscle is able to work throughout the entire range of motion, this motor helps generate power throughout the entire movement of the user. The development of such a motor potentially makes an exoskeleton much more functionally strong by generating more efficient power throughout the entire range of movement of the user.

The Cyclone Rope Piston allows for a lightweight wearable robot to assist with either strenuous activity for an able-bodied person, or movement assistance for rehabilitative purposes. This product is still in the funding phase.

For a more detailed explanation of the impressive and innovative mechanics of this system, I would recommend watching the extremely well made video below:

source

A lightweight wearable robot which subtly assists with human movement? The amazing innovation of wearable technology cannot be achieved without intelligence, countless hours of work, and years of research by those behind the products. Boosted by a recent DARPA grant, Harvard’s Wyss Insititute is developing a Soft Exosuit to assist with walking with the use of textiles and wearable sensors. While not yet a completed product for the market, it is already clear how this wearable robot can potentially change the lives of those with neurological disorders, muscle weakness, the elderly, and those that are fatigue-prone in professions such as the military and first responders.

The components of this product are amazing, especially in their consideration to avoid interference of the device with the user. Elastic textiles that align with certain muscle groups and transmit forces to the body to assist with natural, synergistic movement during gait. Because the textiles are elastic and are unable to measure angles at joints (as rigid components do normally), wearable sensors at the hip, calf and ankle monitor forces and changes in movement. The idea is to provide assistive torque at the joints to mimic normal muscle activity when needed. The sensors track the changes in movement to monitor the types of activities of the user, such as walking or running, to assist with the diversity of everyday activity.

Something especially interesting about the Exosuit is how closely it works with human physiology and biomechanics during gait, including the passive movement of the limbs during walking. Because the functional textiles stretch, they can closely align with muscle groups and assist movement without letting the components interfere with what is natural for the body.

Please see the video below for more:

Sound is captured and processed on a smartphone. The data is then sent over BlueTooth and played in real-time using a series of vibration motors on on a wearable vest.

source

Plasticity is truly one of the amazing aspects of the body’s response to injury or malfunction. Just as when traffic is rerouted during an accident or roadblock, it is the brain’s ability to reorganize neural pathways in response to a situation for us to continue to function and survive.¬† In instances such as hearing loss, these rerouted pathways can be the form of amplified response to vibration to substitute for lacking function of the ear. If the brain is our control center and our senses are just ways to pick up information to send back to the control center, then once we are able to find another way to pick up the information, then the goal (hearing in this instance) is ultimately still achieved.

And what if there was something that amplified the process even more to assist those that go through life with deafness; missing one of the five vital senses? The Eagleman Laboratory has set out to address this. They have begun a Kickstarter campaign for VEST, a wearable extra-sensory device which converts sounds from the environment to vibration.

The skin is the largest organ in the body and provides a huge surface area of sensory input. Using this notion, the VEST works by processing sound in the environment on a smartphone which it converts to vibration. Next, the VEST then picks up these vibratory signals which the skin underneath it hopefully picks up as well. Finally, these signals that the skin has picked up are sent to the brain to process this information. It is ultimately an alternate route to process sound without the use of ears.

In addition to being innovative and easy to operate, VEST provides a low cost, noninvasive alternative to cochlear implants. The founders estimate that the device will cost consumers less than $2,000, while a cochlear implant can cost upwards of $40,000.

photosource

There is no doubt that robotics is changing and improving the field of healthcare. While there are many brilliant products being introduced in this field, it is the robotic exoskeleton that I personally find the most amazing. To think that one day we can completely eradicate the long term use of wheelchairs for people with neurological injuries and replace them with a wearable robot which allows them to stand and walk is absolutely inspiring.

The Indego is one of these devices. Weighing in at 26 pounds, this modular device comes in 5 pieces and is put on in components over the legs, hips and torso. The light frame of the device allows users to keep it on even while in a wheelchair prior to use. The device responds to weight shifts in order to guide movement. A forward lean allows the device to help users stand and walk, while leaning backward stops movement. Modular components at the hip and legs propel forward movement at the joints once initiated.

Currently only available for research purposes in rehabilitation centers, the website states it anticipates commercial sales in the US in 2016.

See the video below for demonstration and more information:

For those with diminished strength or function of the hand, daily tasks that we often take for granted may become difficult, essentially disabling someone in their daily life. To address this and increase efficiency of the performance of the hand, researchers at MIT have developed “Supernumerary Robotic Fingers,” a type of wearable robotic device with two extra fingers to complement the grasping function of a regular hand.

In normal human movements we have muscles that work synergistically, meaning that there is a central signal from the brain that allows them to contract together to create a certain movement. For example, when the biceps contracts to bend the elbow, the muscle brachialis contracts as well to help facilitate this movement. This allows for efficiency of tasks in our body.

An article titled Bio-Artificial Synergies for Grasp Postural Control of Supernumerary Robotic Fingers explains how the researchers have developed an algorithm to allow the robotic fingers to work synergistically with human hands. That is, the extra fingers are designed to correlate with the human movements to work as an extension of the human hand and enhance activity to form essentially a seven-fingered hand. The researchers use the concept of “Bio-Artificial Synergy.” Thus, the researchers have essentially developed extra fingers that replicate the movements of muscles in the human hand.

The device is mounted on the wrist, and through a sensor glove receives a signal from the hand and works alongside the five fingers to assist with grasping objects. The robotic fingers are longer than human digits, making it easier to grasp larger objects. Each robotic finger can move in 3 different directions. For those that have difficulty holding onto objects or performing coordinated movements, this can be an invaluable tool to perform tasks independently.

Because of these extra fingers, the user is able to perform tasks that are normally difficult to perform single-handedly, such as twisting open a bottle cap, holding a tablet and typing, This product is still in the development phase, and though researchers have amazingly been able to correlate the robotic hand angles with human hand angles for grasp, they have not yet completed algorithms for fingertip forces.

The article mentions that this devices has implications not only for elder care, but for construction and manufacturing.

See the video below for more description of this amazing device:

photo source