Monday, April 18, 2011

IHMC Exoskeleton For Wheelchair Users: Project Mina

I have come across a new exoskeleton which is being developed by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) called project MINA. Watch these cool videos of wheelchair users who have used Mina. Listen to what they say about having the opportunity to walk using an exoskeleton.



I contacted Peter Neuhaus the principal investigator for Project Mina to find out more about the goals and expectations for Project Mina.

* What stage is Mina in? Is Mina in Clinical Trials?

As you see from the video we have evaluated Mina v0 with 2 paraplegic people. We are now working on Mina v1. We will not be conducting clinical trials with v0.

* When do you expect it to be on the market?

Marketing Mina is not in our sights. We are focused on advancing the mobility assistance technology.

* How is Mina controlled?

The low level motor control is provided by an on board embedded computer system. The high level control is provided by an off board computer controlled by a human operator. In other words, the user does not have direct control over the stepping. Through words and gestures, the user is able to give cues and commands to the operator. We selected this temporary method of control for its ease of implementation. When walking on flat ground, the only control input from the user that we really needed was start and stop. Our current research efforts include developing a user interface to give the user direct control over the operation of the device. As we develop capabilities beyond walking on flat ground, a more sophisticated user interface will be required.

* It seems that Mina is tethered, is that correct?

Mina is currently tethered for power and high level control and data exchange over an Ethernet cable. Mina v1 will have the ability to run untethered for autonomous power and control operation.

* How will Mina differ from the other exoskletons (Hal, Rex, eLEGS and Rewalk) which will soon be coming to market?

Mina v0 does not offer advantages over the ones you have listed. Our research with Mina v1 will focus on usability, performance capabilities, operation over irregular terrain, and operation with a range of users, from paralyzed to able-bodied.

* Will IHMC commercialize Mina, or are you collaborating with a private company for that?

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute and we will not be commercializing it. Our goals are to advance the field of mobility assist devices while at the same time protecting our intellectual property. When the time is right, we will license or spin-off our technology for commercial purposes.




While Project Mina may never be commercialized, you can read more about exoskeletons for wheelchair users which will soon be on the market on the Exoskeleton Website.