The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) has introduced an exoskeleton for children with spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative illness that affects 1 in 10,000 babies in Spain. The CSIC exoskeleton is still in the pre-clinical phase, but the developers hope to someday make it available to hospitals and other medical facilities.
The 26-pound exoskeleton (seems heavy for an infant), which is built from aluminum and titanium, will help young patients walk for up to five hours. The exoskeleton consists of long support rods that fit around the user’s legs and torso that can be adjusted as the child grows.
The exoskeleton also has five motors in each leg that mimic human muscles, helping the child stand and move. The users have direct control over all five motors, to detect the slightest intent of muscle movement and responds accordingly. The exoskeleton also features sensors and a movement controller.
“The No. 1 drawback in developing this type of pediatric exoskeleton is that the symptoms of neuromuscular illness – such as spinal muscular atrophy – change over time,” Elena Garcia, senior researcher at the Automatics and Robotics Center in Madrid, said in a statement.
“That’s why it’s fundamental to have an exoskeleton capable of independently adapting to these changes,” she continued. “Our model includes intelligence joints which alter the brace’s rigidity automatically and adapt to the symptoms of each individual child at whenever required.”
ReWalk Robotics recently partnered with the Wyss Institute to expedite development of Wyss’ lightweight, soft exosuit. This is an interesting partnership as the two companies have taken a much different approach to designing exoskeletons. ReWalk’s exoskeletons feature the typical bulky backpack, while the Wyss Institute designed its exosuit with soft materials woven into a piece of smart clothing and pulled up like a pair of pants.
[Source:] PC World