Technology Review – Walking Extras

We’ll take a break from individual reviews and have a look at several walking technologies that are still under development, undergoing research or just funny looking, like the accompanying photo.

LOPES

Development started in 2001, but this Lower-extremity Powered ExoSkeleton is still not available commercially. In testing, it appears very similar to the Lokomat, with 2 exceptions: 1) the pelvis will have degrees of movement 2) plans are to expand to an autonomous exoskeleton. What got my attention is that they have plans to study the LOPES with non invasive brain stimulation to enhance cortical plasticity!

KNEXO

This device was designed to help study different aspects of bilateral lower limb exoskeletons. Rather than try to describe this powered Knee EXOskeleton in my own words, I’ll share the developer’s description from their website:

The key features of KNEXO are:

  • A novel actuator system based on lightweight and high force pleated pneumatic artificial muscles (PPAMs) for full knee support during treadmill walking.
  • A “zero-torque” mode for unassisted walking and reference knee pattern recording.
  • A tuneable assistive mode based on a dedicated interaction-based trajectory controller combining compliant guidance with a safe response to human interaction torques.

Couldn’t have said it clearer myself!

HARDIMAN

Powered exoskeletons are not necessarily “new” technology. In the late 1960’s, General Electric and the US Military came together and co-developed Hardiman, an upper and lower body exoskeleton that could lift up to 750 lbs! Unfortunately, the exoskeleton alone weighed 1500 lbs and the violent uncontrolled movements that occurred with attempts at utilizing the full suit lead the developers to scrap the idea.

I expect that in another 50 years, we’ll look back on some of these recent attempts at perfecting the robotic exoskeleton and have the same thought I have when I look at Hardiman now: What the heck is that?

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