Because falling down wearing hundreds of pounds of gear is not fun.
Able-bodied people maintain their balance in part by the sensory feedback receive through our feet. People with severed spinal columns don’t receive those sensations which, even though they are being supported by a mechanical exoskeleton, makes standing difficult. That’s why a team of researchers at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition have begun teaching neophyte exoskeleton wearers to regain their sense of balance by standing atop a Wii U balance board.
Patients don’t just stand there, obviously. They play games and run drills which require them to continually shift their weight. Over time, patients figure out how far they can lean in any given direction before tipping. This helps them re-develop their balance control despite the natural sensory feedback that they used to get from their feet.
Mark has a complete spinal cord injury, meaning he has no sensation below his midsection. So when standing in the exoskeleton, he does not know where his balance point is and if he is about to fall over. To help him learn how to balance, he needs feedback. What better way to give feedback than play games. He is using the Wii Balance Board to learn how to position himself and balance in the exoskeleton. Published on YouTube Aug 18, 2016.
Mina: A Sensorimotor Robotic Orthosis for Mobility Assistance, Anil K. Raj, Peter D. Neuhaus, Adrien M. Moucheboeuf, Jerryll H. Noorden, and David V. Lecoutre. Journal of Robotics Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 284352, 8 pages. doi: 10.1155/2011/284352
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