Archives for posts with tag: bionics


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.



What if there was a device which allowed amputees to feel their limbs again?

The loss of a limb or damage of the nerves that travel through our bodies can greatly diminish the human experience. The sensory system dictates how we respond to our environment, transmitting signals to and from our brains so we can move and feel. Pain, pressure, and temperature response are just some of the functions of the somatosensory system connected to our skin, allowing us to experience the world. In addition, our nerves have a motor component, sending signals from the brain to our muscles, telling them to work so we can move and perform tasks.

Nerves function much like electrical wires, transmitting signals between the brain and areas of stimulus, like an electrical wire between a socket and device. It is this electrical current which causes signals to be transmitted. After an amputation, the nerve is severed, not only disrupting the flow of a nerve signal, but also sometimes leaving amputees with a cruel phantom limb pain, as if the limb was still there. For those with limbs still intact who suffer from nerve damage, the physical limb remains, but its function is diminished without the motor and sensory signals being transmitted.

SENSY by Sensars is almost unbelievable in the amazing feat that it has sought to achieve, allowing amputees and those with nerve damage to feel again. Artificial sensors are implanted to connect to intact nerves, stimulating response in the brain as if there was an intact nerve in a limb. The sensors are connect to wires simulating an actual nerve, and those wires are implanted and connected to actual nerves within the body. Between the artificial sensors  and the residual nerve is an implantable neurostimulator which is bidirectional, sending and receiving signals from both the intact nerve and the artificial sensors.

The versatility of SENSY is also amazing. The company has a multi-functional product which targets both amputees and those with intact limbs who have nerve damage. There are 3 options, but the flow of information is essentially the same. A sensor (either from artificial skin, glove/sock, or “pacemaker”) sends a signal to a controller which is able to activate that signal to an implantable neurostimulator, which causes an electrical signal to communicate with the intact nerve. Once that communication is made, the connection is made between the artificial and biological part of the nervous system, and feeling is processed in the brain.

For amputees, Sensar has sought to decrease phantom limb pain and increase sensory feedback through sensors with a neuroprosthetic device which includes artificial skin. As we know, skin is very sensitive, and in this case will contain sensors which will prompt the prosthetic device to send signal through the artificial nervous system.

For those with intact limbs. the company is designing socks and gloves for those with upper and lower limb nerve damage. These socks and gloves contain sensors within the fabric which act essentially as sensitized skin, also sending signals to an implanted device which communicates with the intact nerves.

Finally, for those with an amputation but without prosthesis, the company has created an implantable pacemaker, essentially an excitable device like a sensor which also sends a signal to the nerve.

Go to the website to read about the full and brilliant description of this product, and watch the video for a visualization of how the artificial sensors are able to communicate with an intact nerve.Still in the prototype phase and not yet available for sale, SENSY will truly impact people’s lives once it is on the market.








Anyone that has ever seen the effects of a stroke knows that they can be physically devastating. Within a day, a physically functional person can lose strength to an entire side of their body and face; leaving them dependent on caretakers or suddenly forced to spend a long period in the hospital. Though a stroke is an injury to the brain, whichever part of the brain it affects means that part of the body’s command center has been injured. In effect this severs the signal to the body, leaving muscles without direction.

Due to disuse after a stroke, the muscles will atrophy and fail to function properly, aligning with the common knowledge of “use it or lose it.”

However, if there is something to intervene early, and assist with rehabilitation and movement, it could possibly accelerate the recovery process.

The Rapael Smart Glove by Neofect is a brilliant way to engage stroke patients in movement and monitor progress. By assigning tasks to the user and simultaneously assisting them with the appropriate movements, the Smart Glove retrains the body in proper movement patterns. Through a mathematical analysis, these ‘task-training games’ are also adjusted for the user’s stroke level, ranging from mild to severe.

Though still in the prototype phase, the product is a brilliant solution to assist with the challenges of retraining stroke patients. Oftentimes, though a person wants to carry out a certain movement, they are unable. A product such as this assists with carrying out the planned movement, helping to bridge the injured signal between the mind and body. The system assists with 3 vital movements in upper body mobility: rotation of the forearm, upward and downward bending of the wrist, and opening and closing the hand.




The retina is the eye’s camera lens, it is a vital thin layer which holds our photoreceptors, cells which receive light signals and communicate with the optic nerve to send these signals to the brain to process them as an image. With age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other visual degenerative diseases, the productivity and sensitivity of the the retina decreases, leading to blindness. This is devastating, to lose one’s vision is to lose touch with arguably the most important sense humans have in interacting with the world.

One amazing device which can help restore vision and is slated to be ready in 2015 is the Bio-Retina by Nano Retina, a bionic retinal implant which replaces the function of an existing, nonfunctional retina. The product is a small implantable chip which attaches to the retina and is powered by its own nanoelectrodes and photosensors. Once implanted, these photosensors help to communicate with the optic nerve to restore the flow of visual information to the brain. Implanted with a procedure which takes less than 30 minutes and requires only local anasthesia, the device is said to begin working instantaneously.  It is charged with an infrared beam from the specially designed eyeglasses which accompany the implant.

The device’s cost is planned to be $60,000. See the video below for details.


3D printing is truly changing healthcare, allowing us to print everything from hearts to skulls to exoskeletons to hands. This revolution has paved the way for making replacement limbs for amputees financially accessible. In England, a young roboticist has made it his mission to begin a project to provide a low cost, open source 3D design kit for those with missing hands. Through crowdfunding, Joel Gibbard of Open Bionics was able to create a low cost robotic hand kit, including designs for both a robotic myoelectric hand and a prosthetic hand.

The robotic hand is titled the Adams Hand, using electric motors to replace muscles and steel cables to replace tendons. Movement of the intact muscles of the forearm and wrist enable synergistic movement of the device, meaning that an action such as bending the wrist would engage the bending of the 3D fingers and hand. With grabbing an item, the fingers stop once there is an object impeding their movement. Thus, the hand is able to master the task of grasping a fragile, uneven object such as an egg.

The project is geared both toward amputees and researchers for use in advancing the field of robotics.

A DIY kit includes Adams Hand, Servo, Wrist (with generic connector), wire tendon, mounting screws, servo horn, and instruction manual.  A price is not yet set. Please see the video below.

As technology and the 3D printing boom in healthcare moves ahead, it’s inspiring to see that some are still thinking of people that may not have access to all the great healthcare opportunities that come with more resources.


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:

The beauty of robotics is not only the creativity involved, but the ability it has to allow people recovering from life-changing accidents to transition back to normal life.

An article in the New Scientist describes the story of Jason Barnes, a young drummer who lost his arm below the elbow while working at a restaurant. Through meeting Gil Weinberg, the founding director of the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, and working with a drum instructor, a robotic arm was developed that would help Jason return to drumming. The arm was just completed recently, and will make a debut in concert at the Atlanta Science Festival on March 22nd.

According to the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology site, the prosthesis features two drumsticks that can play at different rhythms. One drumstick responds to cues from Jason’s upper body, as he contracts the stick responds to cues from upper arm muscle contractions and electromyography signals. The second stick has a “musical brain” and improvises to play with the other to create rhythm.The synchronization technology allows the second stick to play with the first as it receives cues from muscles that the first stick is about to hit the drumset. An embedded chip controls the speed of the drumsticks, which is what allows the sticks to play at two different rhythms.

Jason Barnes will debut this prosthesis on March 22nd. Read the New York Times press release and see the video below: (

We spend the first year of our lives preparing to take our first step, and so begins our life as creatures who rely on our two legs to ambulate. There probably appears nothing as devastating as losing this function, only to be confined to a wheelchair. This often happens to otherwise young and healthy individuals as the result of a spinal cord injury, injuring the nerves that send signals to the muscles they control. The higher up the injury is toward the head, the more muscles are affected. Those with injuries to the spinal cord in the lower back will lose function of their leg muscles; their arm muscles are not affected and thus allow them to propel a wheelchair or crutches.

We are made to walk, and not sit; thus long term use of a wheelchair not only affects muscle tone but also digestion and other vital bodily functions. The sooner someone can stand up and begin walking again after injury, the less long term effects there are on the body.

Robotics exist to fill the need for those functions that we can either not fulfill or are unable to perform efficiently, and walking is no exception. There are several companies in recent years which have released products which allow wheelchair-bound people with paralysis to stand and walk. One of these companies is Ekso Bionics, which has produced an amazing bionic exoskeleton that does just that; their tagline on their website states “Ekso is the bionic exoskeleton that allows wheelchair users to stand and walk.” Their product consists of a lithium battery powered exoskeleton which powers motors at the hip and knee, along with crutches or a walker. There are several modes which meet client needs, one of which amazingly adjusts power to one side when only one side is affected by injury such as stroke.

Currently the product is available only for use in rehabilitation centers under the supervision of a physical therapist, but the website states a personal version for home use may be launched as early as next year.