Friday, June 24, 2011

A Spring Based Exoskeleton For People With Arm Disabilties

In my last blog post, I wrote about a spring based lower extremity orthosis for people with mobility disorders. A few days later, I learned about a spring based product which may help people with disabilities of the arm.

Here you can see a video of the arm in action. In the last few frames you will see a person with a disability using the device:

Eric Golden, the president of Equipois was kind enough to do a brief interview about the X-Ar

Gene: How does it work (in non-technical language)?

Eric: We use a spring in a proprietary geometry to provide lift and provide lateral stabilization with a mix of spring tension and variable degrees of freedom.

Our spring architecture is something originally developed for a camera stabilization system called the Steadicam -- we partnered with the Steadicam's inventor, Garrett Brown. That invention (with our improvements) does an amazing job of creating a "zero gravity" effect, essentially compensating for the spring forces as the arm moves. For someone in a wheelchair, that means the ability to move his/her arms freely with a fraction of the exertion otherwise required.

Gene: What kind of wheelchair users do you expect it to be helpful for?

Eric: We have not defined specific diagnostic presentations for which X-Ar is suited since our initial launch targeted for able bodied persons doing repetitive tasks in a variety of environments and industries. However, we have every reason to expect that X-Ar will provide great quality of life improvements for broad range of disabilities and impairments for both wheel chair users and ambulatory users. Some of the potential patient groups we are investigating including brain injury, stroke, MS, and Muscular Dystrophy.

Gene: How much (ballpark) do you expect it to cost?

Eric: Single arm systems will cost around $3-4,000.

Gene: Will it be going into clinical trials?

Eric: Yes. We are talking to strategic partners (including universities and hospitals) to help facilitate this next stage of development.

Gene: When do you expect it to be launched?

Eric: We are taking orders now for the first version of the X-Ar. Production Models will be available in 6-8 weeks.

Gene: Who can people contact for more information?

Eric: Info "AT" equiposinc "DOT" com or

Read more about exoskeletons for wheelchair users.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cadence’s Kinetic Orthosis: It Looks Like An Exoskeleton, But It's Not

I have come across a new device which may be of interest to many wheelchair users interested in exoskeletons, called the "Cadence Kinetic Orthosis". At first glance, the frame of the Orthosis looks a bit like that of an exoskeleton. However, it works very differently. According to the company:

Cadence’s Kinetic Orthosis uses no motors or batteries to enable walking. Instead, it relies on a proprietary tuned system of cams and springs to capture energy during the beginning of a step, and then return that energy at the end of a step to amplify muscular strength and enable users to walk faster and walk longer.

As it requires no motors or batteries, it is alot simpler than current exoskeletons and will be alot less expensive. The question is, does it work? While I have been skeptical, I have had an email exchange with the CEO of Cadence, Brian Glaister, who has been kind enough to supply me with information about the product. Most recently, Brian supplied me with a press release stating that "a woman with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), was able to use Cadence’s Kinetic Orthosis to take her first steps on her own since 2005." Watch her walk using the new Orthosis. (Note, there is a person walking behind her, holding onto a strap just in case she were to fall, but she does not. You can see a hand in the video, but they are providing no support.)

Additional information about the Cadence "test pilot", Heather Montag:

Normally, Heather can walk for short durations if someone holds on to her hand for support. She has walked with the Kinetic Orthosis twice, and the first time she tried the device she was able to walk for over an hour with support. The second time she used the device, she decided to try to walk without support and was successful.

In addition, the new press release states "Cadence is currently recruiting additional test subjects for a research study further investigating the performance of the Kinetic Orthosis and is preparing to release the device to the marketplace in early 2012." So, if you would like to be involved in testing this new device, contact Cadence for more information. If you test their device, contact me as well (RehaDesign "AT" Gmail "DOT" com) because I would be interested in hearing about your experiences.

Read more about exoskeletons for wheelchair users.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wheelchair Adventurer James Barnett Crashes In Seattle

James Barnett intended to travel by wheelchair from Canada to Mexico accompanied by his two sons on their bikes. Why? James had "a dream to take an adventure with his two sons". Being in a wheelchair did not matter. James is an adventurer and planned to have an adventure of a lifetime. James and his boys left Canada on 1 June in his wheelchair.

Unfortunately, James only got as far as Seattle before crashing and being hospitalized. James received serious injuries from his crash. After being rushed to the hospital doctors realized he also had severe pneumonia.

Ironically, prior to his trip, James and I had discussed him sharing some guest blog posts along his voyage on this Wheelchair Blog. It never happened. This was my last communication with James:

Date: Sunday, 1 May, 2011, 17:04


Sorry about the late reply, been so swarmed getting this trip planned and underway to launch June 1st. Would love to do a few posts leading up to the trip. Let us know what we need to do to get it going. I would love to do a post introducing people to me and my sons about my disease Muscular Dystrophy and why we are planning this trip. Then maybe a few days later do a post about where we are going for the trip and where it begins and ends and what really gave us the reason to push for this journey to happen. Then possibly along the journey on our down days when we are resting we could contact you about when a good time to do a post about how the journey is going so far and some pictures of the journey and such. Let me know what you think. Can't wait to hear from you.

-James Barnett

James: I wish you a speedy recovery and I hope that this is just a setback. I hope that one day you and your boys get a chance to fullfill your dreams. I admire your courage to share this adventure with your boys and your determination not let your disability stand in your way.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The 10 Rehab Centers Testing eLEGS Exoskeleton For Wheelchair Users

Berkeley Bionics has announced the names of the US Rehab Centers involved in the clinical trials of eLEGS exoskeleton for wheelchair users.

•Craig Hospital, Englewood, CO
•Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network, Allentown, PA
•Kessler Foundation, West Orange, NJ
•Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY, NY
•RIM Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, Detroit, MI
•Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii
•Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, San Jose, CA
•Shepherd Center, Atlanta, Georgia
•Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston, MA
•TIRR Memorial Hermann, Houston, TX

It is interesting to see the how the clinics are geographically spread with 4 centers on the east coast, 2 in the south, 2 in the center, 1 on the west coast of the USA. In addition to geographical distribution as probable selection criteria, the CEO of Berkeley Bionics mentioned the status of the centers:

Five of the charter centers are among the top ten in the country, as ranked by US News' seminal annual report," explained Eythor Bender, CEO of Berkeley Bionics. "Other prestigious rankings come from the Spinal Cord Injury Model System Center, and of course, the NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) Center, funded by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation," he added.

It is well known that Moss Rehab of Elkins Park, PA was the center that conducted clinical trials for Argo Medical's ReWalk Exoskeleton. Thus the most experience with robotic exoskeletons for wheelchair users is currently on the east coast of the USA.

Read more about eLEGS exoskeleton for wheelchair users.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rex Exoskeletons For Wheelchair Users To Relocate Abroad

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that there are currently 4 leading exoskeletons for wheelchairs in various stages of development. Each of the manufacturers are headquarted in very distant corners of the world (USA, Japan, Israel and New Zealand).

Recently I came across an interesting article revealing that one of the manufactuers, Rex Bionics, may be forced to move in order to get the funding they need to continue.

According to CEO Jenny Morel:

The biggest issue here is the lack of funding in New Zealand. We would like to keep this company based here but the reality is the funding is overseas and it's very likely we'll be setting up a head office overseas and keeping our research and development here.

I wrote to my contact at Rex and he confirmed by writing "we always realised the New Zealand market was small and ultimately we would be looking offshore, that is what we are now doing."

While it is not clear where Rex will move, the most likely destinations would be either the USA or Europe. There would be arguments for both. Since funding seems to be the main reason to move, the logical destination would be the USA where venture capitalists are flush with cash to invest in cutting edge technology. This is where I would bet that Rex is headed. However, there are two important reasons for Rex to consider moving to Europe, both related to marketing issues rather than funding. First, no late stage exoskeleton is currently headquarted in Europe. Being headquarted in Europe would be a strong competitive advantage for a start-up company hoping to sell products there. The other reason for Rex to move to Europe is that, and I have no data to support this arguement, it seems to me that European health care systems are more liberal about spending money on technology for people with disabilities.

Where ever Rex ends up, I wish them the best. With its superior stability and the fact that it can used by Quads, the Rex Exoskeleton has an important place in this exciting market. Read more about Rex Exoskeleton For Wheelchair Users.