Friday, June 29, 2012

78 Year Old Walks In Exoskeleton

Think that the new exoskeletons for wheelchair users is only for the young? Think again. Senior citizen, Amar Sappal, 78 years young, takes his first steps after 2 years in an Ekso exoskeleton:

This is exciting news that exoskeletons can be used safely by wheelchair users, both young and old. Go Amar! Read more about exoskeletons for wheelchair users.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Quad Wheelchair Glove Review

Jan from the Czech Republic, bought a pair of Strap N Roll gloves, and wrote to us that he liked them. Since Strap N Roll Quad gloves are new on the market, we wrote to Jan and asked if he would like to do an interview to tell us his thoughts about Strap N Roll and Jan kindly agreed.

Gene: Jan, can you tell us a bit more about yourself? What level is your injury? What kind of hand function do you have?

Jan: My name is Jan, I´m 32 years old and I´m from Czech Republic. 16 years ago, i jumped into the water, level of my injury is C4-C5. Kind of hand function is only wrist flexion.

Gene: What features do you look for in Quad Gloves? What kind of Quad gloves have you used in the past?

Jan: I was looking for the gloves what go easy to put on, help me easily control my wheelchair, will protect my hands against abrasions and will look good. That is my first Quad gloves.

Gene: What is it that interested you in Strap N Roll Quad Gloves? Why did you buy them?

Jan: Strap n Roll gloves had everything what I wrote above.

Gene: What were your thoughts about Strap N Roll Quad Gloves after you tried them? What did you like about them? What didn't you like about them?

Jan: Gloves had everything what i expect. They go easy to put on, have very good protection of my hands and make easily drive the wheelchair. I like the material and look. I have found no negative yet.

Gene: Did you find the Quad Gloves easy to put on?

Jan: Yes, absolutely.

Gene: Tell us about the fit? Was it comfortable?

Jan: Yes, no problem.

Gene: What about the grip on the push rim? Can you tell us about that? Do they help you to push the wheelchair more easily?

Jan: I think the grip is very good. I have rubberized push rims and that make the grip better.

Gene: Does the leather seem like it is good quality?

Jan: Yes, quality of leather seems like good. I use the gloves one week only, will see in future.

Gene: Is there anything else you would like us to know?

Jan: Yes. Thank you for your job. You do it great!!!

Gene: Thank you so much for the feedback. We really appreciate it.

If you buy a pair of our wheelchair gloves and would agree to be interviewed and let people know what you think, please drop us a note at RehaDesign "AT" Click to see Strap N Roll Quad Gloves.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Interview: Thought Controlled Exoskeletons

As I blogged about last week, scientists in Houston, Texas will soon be conducting clinical trials on an exoskeleton controlled completely by thought. This is exciting for two reasons. First a thought controlled exoskeleton could allow someone with no upper body movement, for example a quadriplegic with a very high spinal cord injury to operate an exoskeleton. Second, a thought controlled exoskeleton could one day achieve physiological-like movement, something that current exoskeletons will probably never achieve.

Here is a video of Dr Contreras-Vidal and the thought controlled Rex Exoskeleton:

I contacted Dr. Jose L. Contreras-Vidal and he agreed to answer a few questions about this exciting work:

* What are the main challenges that you are facing?

There are several challenges in bringing this technology to the clinic and the home. They include demonstrating safety and efficacy in a controlled clinical trial with patient volunteers -a requirement to gain FDA approval. We expect the use of the exoskeleton technology to result in both brain and body adaptations resulting in an overall improvement in health/well being, e.g., bladder function, bone density/strength, cardiovascular health, etc. We also need to improve the form-factor and usability so that patients can 'put on' the device easily and rapidly. Moreover, it is likely that several device models will be optimized to specific clinical populations, including pediatric. In summary, we are making the 'first steps' in this exciting and meaningful research.

* Do you believe that a thought controlled exoskeleton could achieve a physiological movement in the near future? For example, can it stand up, sit down, climb stairs, step sideways, etc? Or is something like that years off?

Our exoskeleton system is already functional in that it can sit, stand-up, turn left or right, climb stairs up/down all while self-balancing.

* How soon could it be before a thought controlled exoskeleton could reach the market?

Hard to predict given the challenges; however, given the non-invasive nature of the approach, which reduces greatly the risk to the user, we hope to be able to fast-track the system through the FDA approval process within a few years. This includes making the system available in parts, for example, we think the exoskeleton alone can be brought to the clinic within a year, whereas it may take a bit longer to bring the system for use a home. The thought-controlled exoskeleton would take a bit longer given the added complexities and testing to be done.

* I have read that clinical trials of thought controlled exoskeletons will start in Summer? Do you have a date yet? Do you know when it will finish?

We are working on this and will be in touch. Our current target date is late Summer.

* How many subjects will you have?

We will aim for 15 users with various degrees of physical/gait impairment

* Are you looking for subjects? If so, how can volunteers be included?

Once we are ready to start the studies we will advertise for recruitment, most likely in our webpages (see below) and through the Texas Medical Center.

* Any chance of some videos of a thought controlled exoskeleton? I would love to see this in action.

I can make this available later this summer.

* How can we keep up to date of what is going on so I can write about it. How can we do that?

Follow me in the social media,

Here are our official websites:

Read more about exoskeletons for wheelchair users.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Push Girls: Hot Wheelchair Girls Or Inspirational Tear Jerker?

The folks from NPR contacted me recently to let me know that they will be will be interviewing some of the cast of the new Sundance reality show "Push Girls".  They wrote:

On Wednesday, June 13, 2012, NPR’s Talk of the Nation is doing a segment on women in wheelchairs at 3 p.m. (EST). We’ll be talking to Auti Angel and Mia Schaikewitz from the Sundance channel series, “Push Girls” and we’ll also be taking calls from listeners who want to weigh in.
I had heard that Push Girls was in development but I did not realize it was already being broadcast. So, I looked on Youtube to see if I could find a few clips. This is what I found:

Frankly, that clip of Push Girls seems too "inspirational" for my liking and if they continue in that direction, I doubt that this show will have much "staying power". Yes, the Push Girls are strong. Yes, the Push Girls have done remarkable things post-injury. I know Auti Angel and there is not a sweeter, more talented girl on 4 wheels. But for this reality show to last more than a few episodes, we will need much, much more than inspirational fluff.

Then I saw this:

Reverse cowgirl? What is THAT?  So, of course I had to do a Google search and find out. Don't click this link if you blush easily, but if you are not shy here is a definition of Reverse Cowgirl.

So, I am hoping that the Push Girls break down some barriers and knock down some walls. Show us some hot girls on wheels. Make us blush. Make us laugh.  Don't go for the easy emotions, rather tug at our heart strings. THEN this show could be around for a few seasons.

NPR let me know that the interview with Auti Angel and Mia Schaikewitz can be heard internationally within a few hours after its live broadcast in the United States at this link.

PS: If there is a "Push Girl" reading this who would like to be interviewed, contact me at RehaDesign "AT" and I will set it up. Believe me, it will not be "inspirational fluff".

Friday, June 8, 2012

Thought Controlled Exoskeletons Coming Soon?

The day is coming when a paralyzed person will walk into a room wearing wearing an exoskeleton under their clothes and no one will know it. What is required to get there? First, a smaller and quieter exoskeleton than the big, noisy ones now coming to market. Second, technology which will allow the exoskeleton to be controlled in the same way that legs are controlled, by thought. 

A great deal of work is being done in the area of brain controlled exoskeletons. At Brown University, a robotic hand is being controlled by the thoughts of a quadriplegic subject, named Cathy Hutchinson, who has been unable to use her hands for 15 years. Watch how Cathy is controlling the robotic hand only by her thoughts:

However, in order to control that exoskeleton, Cathy has had to have an electrode implanted in her brain. Having anything implanted in your brain is quite risky and far from ideal.

So, it is very exciting news that a mind controlled exoskeleton is being developed by other researchers which does NOT require anything to be implanted. Instead, electrodes in a skull cap worn on the head sense the desired movements as can be seen in this video:

Dr Contreras-Vidal of the University of Houston, in Texas is working together with the manufacturers of Rex Exoskeleton to develop an  exoskeleton which will be controlled by thought. Why is this important? The current exoskeletons under development are controlled by "force and motion" sensors, a joy stick or sensors on the skin. None of these types of sensors are ideal and none will be able to offer physiological gait or natural movement. Imagine having to push a button in order to climb stairs, sit down or break into a run. Not only that, but a thought controlled exoskeleton will allow quads and others with little or no upper body control to be able to use exoskeletons. Soon, we will publish an exclusive interview with Dr.  Contreras-Vidal about his thought controlled exoskeleton. In the mean time, read more about exoskeletons for wheelchair users.

Friday, June 1, 2012

New Wheelchair Glove For Wheelchair Users With Hand Disabilities

A new leather wheelchair push glove has been launched for active wheelchair users. This new leather wheelchair glove has been designed primarily for quadriplegic wheelchair users and other wheelchair users who have hand disabilities who are active and would like to push a manual wheelchair. What makes this wheelchair glove unique?

First: Wheelchair users can select the type of closure that they prefer. Some wheelchair users prefer to close their gloves with a strap, because a strap makes it easier to close the wheelchair glove. Other wheelchair users prefer not to have a strap, because then the glove can open wider making it easier to insert the hand. This new wheelchair glove is the first offer both options.

Second: The wheelchair glove is completely open from the backside making allowing the hands more freedom to move.

Third: The grips on the palm of the hand are separated giving this wheelchair glove a hinge-like effect making this wheelchair glove more flexible than other wheelchair gloves.

Fourth: Unlike cheap leather wheelchair gloves which can turn the hand black due to color transfer, this wheelchair glove is lined with material so that the hand in never in contact with the leather. There is no need to wash this wheelchair glove before use and there is no risk that the hands of the wheelchair users can turn black.

Read more about these innovative wheelchair gloves for quads and other wheelchair users.