SFU’s robotic exoskeleton designed to help people with disabilities walk again

Of the never-ending display of digital innovations and ideas crammed into the Vancouver Convention Centre for the B.C. Tech Summit, one stood out from the rest.

The wearable robotic exoskeleton literally stood out, its pumps, pedals and pistons strapped on a human-size mannequin suspended from the floor to make it look like a futuristic action movie villain that towered over six feet tall.

And it’s promise is equally as striking: That it will allow those who can’t walk the ability to strap themselves into a sleeker version of the one on display and walk.

The Wearable Lower Limb Anthropomorphic Exoskeleton System, or Exomotion for short, is a robotic system that imitates the full range of motion for hips and ankles, “allowing for a completely natural walking motion,” according to a press release by Simon Fraser University’s Bio Mechatronic Systems Lab, where the robot was created.

“There will be no difference between them and able-bodied people,” said Siamak Arzanpour, a professors who with Prof. Edward Park led the team that created the robot.

Park said the goal is to create and test the prototype within weeks, with broader testing throughout 2019 for a 2020 release date.

He said at the B.C. Tech Summit after demonstrating how the Exomotion would work — this prototype when operated by a technician at a keyboard doesn’t move quickly or fluidly — that their innovation is a breakthrough because it behaves as a human body would.

He said the robot offers the user the full range of motion so that walkers can maintain their balance and experience normal walking.

The day it’s ready for testing can’t come quickly enough for Chloe Angus, who three years ago started her day as an able-bodied 40-year-old out for a run and learned within 24 hours she would never walk again.

The doctors diagnosed her with a benign tumour on her spine. It’s inoperable and she’s been using a wheelchair since.

Angus, a fashion designer whose line of clothing with Indigenous motifs has been worn by former B.C. Premier Christy Clark and is sold across Canada and beyond, said within 48 hours of learning of her injury, she was looking for an exoskeleton.

She soon realized it wasn’t as easy as ordering one from Amazon.

Angus was able to get eight sessions at the G.F. Strong Centre but because of the cost of using the apparatus that required two employees to assist, she was unsuccessful at starting a program there.

But she was …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun – Business

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