Self-balancing robotic suit mimics how humans move could let wheelchair users walk again

A French startup has developed a futuristic exoskeleton device that can help patients with complete lower body paralysis to walk without crutches or a walker using a computer and motors.

Floriane Vintras described standing up using the exoskeleton as a “magnificent experience.” Wandercraft

By Annie Palmer, Daily Mail 11 June 2018

Called the ‘Atalante’, it’s a robotic suit that uses sophisticated computers and motors to emulate the way humans walk.

The device was developed by Paris-based Wandercraft and is now undergoing patient trials, with the hope of going on sale soon.

Users begin by sitting in the device then moving their hips, which tells the motors in the hips, knees and ankle to move, forcing the device into a standing position. Atalante has two movable legs and a back rest which are attached to the user via straps that help distribute pressure uniformly. The user puts their feet on metal pads that have rubber grips. The back rest features a battery and an Intel i7-equipped microcomputer that judges how the machine should balance and walk, according to Engadget.

Wearers can either use gestures to control the device, or a professional can direct it using special programs.

The Atalante by Wandercraft is designed to be a completely self-reliant walking system for people with mobility disability.

The design intent is for a

  • Hip-Knee-Ankle lower body exoskeleton
  • Self-Balancing
  • No need for crutches or walker
  • Intuitive controls (no joystick) using a sensor vest
  • Programming to navigate obstacles and provide more natural gait

Source Exoskeleton Report

Atalante is the fourth generation of Wandercraft’s lower body exoskeleton devices and weighs about 130lbs. For now, the device moves relatively slow, but that’s expected to get better in subsequent iterations. The most important factor is that the device has to have perfect balance, so as to not injure the patient.

“We discovered that stability and human gait are some of the hardest problems we’ve ever encountered in robotics,” Managing Director Matthieu Masselin told Engadget.

Wandercraft has been developing the device for several years now and has sought to make sure it follows various medical protocols before it’s ready to hit the shelves.

With design and development now complete, the firm is working to figure out how many patients and medical personnel need it, Engadget noted.

Currently, there’s no demo videos showing the device in action, but Wandercraft prefers to show footage of the Atalante to medical organizations first before debuting it to the public.

The firm hopes to have the device in medical facilities by the end of this year, as well as achieve FDA approval to sell it in the US, Engadget said.

In the near future, the firm may develop a lighter version of the device that enables patients to walk out of their house, but it will have to be able to ascend and descend stairs.

But the firm has made considerable progress on the current version of Atalante and has experienced success among paraplegic patients who have tried the device.

‘There was such a strong emotional response from our test subjects,” Masselin explained. “For a lot of them, it was the first time they had been able to walk since their accidents’

What’s more, by developing a device that allows paraplegic patients to stand, it can help them avoid many of the common issues they deal with, like cardiovascular problems, pressure sores, eroding muscle strength and even depression, Engadget noted.

“Our friends in wheelchairs told us, OK, if there was a device that would enable us to be able to walk again, there is no price that I wouldn’t pay,” Masselin said.

Wandercraft isn’t the only startup focusing on the exoskeleton space.

Japanese robotics firm Cyberdyne has developed a futuristic HAL Robot Suit that it hopes to bring to the US. Cyberdyne has been developing the Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) for nearly a decade, but only now has the firm been able to bring the technology stateside. The robot suit fits around the wearer’s midsection and legs to provide support for people who are otherwise unable to walk on their own, such as people who are suffering from a spinal cord injury. Wearers control the suit with their brain, as the machine is able to pick up bio-electric signals.

Source Daily Mail

Wandercraft robotic exoskeleton for the disabled first look. Engadget. Youtube Sep 28, 2017

Also see
Wandercraft’s exoskeleton was made to help paraplegics walk in Engadget

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