When it comes to the price of most products, US$40,000 is pretty high. In the case of powered exoskeletons, however, it's cheap – at least half the typical price. Nonetheless, that's approximately what suitX's Phoenix modular exoskeleton should sell for, bringing the technology to a whole new income class. And at 27 lb (12.25 kg), it's also one of the lightest models ever made.
Affecting approximately 1 in 5,000 boys, Duchenne muscular dystrophy causes the victim's muscles to shrink throughout their lifetime, often to the point that the arms and legs can't be used at all. That's why the european Stichting Flextension (Flextension Foundation) started up the A-Gear project four years ago. The multi-partner effort is designing two arm-worn exoskeletons, intended to help Duchenne patients retain the use of their arms.
Wheelchair users have had to live with the fact that stairs, sharp curbs and doorsteps either required assistance to maneuver, or made access to some locations impossible. The TopChair-S, however, is designed to change that. It's an electric wheelchair designed to safely maneuver over such obstacles, utilizing caterpillar-like tracks in addition to wheels for greater maneuverability and independence.
You might remember Derby, a dog who was born with a congenital deformity but last year received a 3D-printed prostheses that enabled him to run for the first time. Well, it's onward and upward for Derby and his carers, who have now crafted an upgraded set of custom prostheses allowing him to walk proudly with a straight back and even sit like a healthy dog.
Assistive exoskeletons are a bit like electric bikes – they do indeed give users a power boost, but part of that boost is needed just to move the extra weight along. Japanese researchers at Hiroshima University and Daiya Industry Co., however, have created a minimalist exoskeleton that does away with heavy batteries and motors. Instead, their Unplugged Powered Suit (UPS) harnesses the wearer's own weight.
Even though fully-electric wheelchairs can do amazing things these days, like go off-road or climb stairs, they are still often too large and cumbersome for the average wheelchair user. The Smart-Drive MX2 provides a versatile alternative – it's an electric drive designed to attach to an ordinary wheelchair and give a boost up hills, over difficult surfaces, or whenever it's needed.
We've seen a number of technologies that speak on behalf of paralyzed
people who are unable to do so. While some of these utilize cues as
subtle as eye movements,
the fact is that many severely paralyzed patients are unable to manage
even those. That's why researchers at Britain's Loughborough University
have created a system that speaks words based on the user's breathing.
Amputees in developing nations frequently can't afford the high-end
prostheses used by people in other parts of the world. That's why
Technological University of Mexico spin-off company Protesta is
developing a low-cost artificial arm made from lightweight polyethylene
terephthalate (PET) plastic. As an added bonus, the arm will alert the
user if it gets too hot.
Besides building luxury cars and motorcycles, BMW has made some pretty impressive sports gear, including an Olympic bobsled that drove Team USA to men's bronze and women's silver and bronze medals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. BMW of North America announced today that it is now focusing attention on the upcoming 2016 Paralympic Games. It's reaching into its deep well of mechanical know-how to develop a racing wheelchair for the US track and field team.
Some higher-end prosthetic legs are equipped with things like gyroscopes
and accelerometers, in order to guide their knee joint through a more
natural bending motion. In developing nations, however, such expensive
prostheses usually aren't an option. That's why a scientist from MIT is
developing a knee that could allow inexpensive legs to perform like the