An autonomous exoskeleton is in the works to help those confined to a wheelchair and for paraplegics, according to Tech Xplore. The exoskeleton, known as Atalante, is being designed by Wandercraft, a French start-up company. They hope the exoskeleton will be used in rehab centers to enable new treatments and more frequent training sessions.
Wandercraft’s goal is to build something simple for extraordinary people. They hope people with limited mobility will have the chance to walk again and that wheelchair users will recover autonomy.
“There was such a strong emotional response from our test subjects,” said Managing Director Matthieu Masselin. “For a lot of them, it was the first time they had been able to walk since their accidents.”
The Atalante has two movable legs and a back rest that attaches to the person with straps to evenly distribute pressure.
There is also a large battery at the back with an Intel Core i7-equipped microcomputer. This technology does the appropriate math for the machine to balance and walk.
The machine eliminates a need for crutches. Normally, crutches create stress on shoulder muscles, which makes it harder for patients to go to rehab sessions frequently because of the strain. The ability to walk without crutches provides many beneficial health conditions for wheelchair users and paraplegics.
In order for the user to stand up they simply make a gesture by bending at the waste.
“That activates motors that automatically drive the exoskeleton to a standing position,” said Engadget‘s Steve Dent, who reported on test subjects during preliminary trials for those using the Atalante prototype. “Walking can then be cued either by patient gestures or automatic programs started by the therapist.”
This technology has sparked hope in those who never thought they would walk again. Although the machine is noisy and has a few kinks, Dent believes it will only get better.
“Such tech has never been tried and many of the test subjects hadn’t risen from their wheelchairs in years,” said Dent. “With time, patients would develop more skill, and the exoskeleton is bound to get smoother.”