Friday, July 27, 2012

Push Girls: A Guy's View

Since I live in Europe and do not have the Sundance Channel, I can not watch the Push Girls as easily as others can. But I did manage to catch an episode of Push Girls uploaded on DailyMotion (if this link does not work in the future, do not be surprised. I expect the video to be taken down at some point, after all, I doubt it has been put there with the kind permission of the Sundance Channel).

What did I think? Well, this show is called Push GIRLS (note the caps) and, it really seemed a "chick flick" sort of thing. It was really focused on women's issues and, probably for that reason, it did not really click with me. But then again, most reality shows don't, particularly the girlie ones. Come to think of it, if I did not have a wife and a child, I probably would not watch TV at all. Mostly we watch E Channel (I always wonder when they will rename E Channel the Kardashian Channel? Do they show anything else?) and BabyTV. Sad to think that I know more about Kim Kardashian and Baby Chef than I do about many of my friends.

Anyway, I digressed. Even though I am not a fan of Push Girls, I can understand that it does resonate with many viewers. Read reviews written by women, such as this Push Girls Episode 6 Review,

I have discovered that most women really love Push Girls. Why not? Push girls focuses issues such as on dating, beauty, modeling, fashion and a boat load of other issues that women, more than most men, are interested in. So, I wonder, now that Push Girls seems to be successful, is there going to be a sequel called "Push Guys" or "Push Babies"? Better yet, if there was a "Push Kardashians", I would probably be watching it whether I want to or not.

Friday, July 20, 2012

An Improved Exoskeleton Launching Next Year

Recently I learned that a new exoskeleton  is speeding to the market and may be launched as soon as next year. The new exoskeleton has been designed by a team from Vanderbilt University Center for Intelligent Mechatronics under the leadership of  Prof. Michael Goldfarb. I contacted him and asked for an interview to update us on the progress about this new exoskeleton. Michael kindly agreed.

* Gene: How does the Vanderbilt Exoskeleton differ from the other four leading exoskeletons on the market (ReWalk, Ekso, HAL and Rex)?
* Michael: I’m not aware that HAL has yet been used to enable walking in a person with complete paraplegia, so I generally don’t consider it in a comparison. If you know otherwise, let me know. Regarding the VU exoskeleton in relation to the others, the VU exo is significantly lighter (12 kg or 27 lb); does not have components worn over the shoulders or under the feet; snaps apart into three pieces for transport, storage, donning, and doffing; and does not require an instrumented stability aid (like the Ekso) or a wrist pad controller (like ReWalk) to use. One additional substantial difference is that the VU exo is designed to be used with supplemental FES, for users that want the additionally physiological benefits of doing so. We have demonstrated effective cooperative use of the exo and FES with the quads and hamstrings. We have two papers that will be presented at the upcoming EMBS conference next month that describe results with FES. 

* Gene: Can you please tell us a few words about functional electrical stimulation (FES), how it works and what the benefits are for wheelchair users, quads as well as paras? What is the benefit of having electrical stimulation in an exoskeleton?
* Michael: FES is a means of artificially eliciting muscle contraction, in our case from surface skin electrodes, and in our case, used in conjunction with and controlled by the exoskeleton. As a result, the user is moving under the combination of exoskeleton motor power, and his or her own muscle power. Supplementing the exoskeleton with FES provides a number of physiological benefits to the user, including improved circulation, decreased decubitus ulcers, improved cardiovascular and lymphatic health, increased bone density, and reduced muscle spasticity, to name a few. Our system need not be used with FES, but can be used with it for those users who want the associated physiological benefits.

* How easy is it to put on the Vanderbilt exoskeleton? How long does it take?
* Michael: We designed it to be snapped on in three pieces while seated (i.e., you need not transfer into it, although you can if that’s the preference). This works fairly well in the current version, but we are currently revising the quick-connect design to make it easier to snap together. As it currently is, it takes approximately three minutes to don, and about 30 seconds to doff.

* What are the biggest challenges that you face?
* Michael: I’m not sure how you intend this question, but I believe establishing a viable business model for our exoskeleton (and all other emerging ones) is amongst the biggest of challenges. We need to demonstrate a clear benefit/cost ratio, in particular, by demonstrating clear therapeutic benefit (that fact the user’s really like it is likely not sufficient for medical reimbursement), and we need to reduce the cost of these exos.

* Gene: For what type of user will the Vanderbilt Exoskeleton be appropriate?
* Michael: Any para with sufficient upper extremity coordination to balance with a stability aid. Possibly some quads with sufficient arm and grip strength to use a stability aid.

* Gene: What are your plans for marketing the Vanderbilt exoskeleton? When do you expect to be able to bring the exoskeleton to the market?
* Michael: We have licensed this technology to a commercial partner that intends to bring the technology to market. That commercial partner will submit to the FDA. The commercial partner plans to make the exoskeleton available for purchase next fall (2013).

* Gene: Do you expect to market the Vanderbilt as the other exoskeleton companies have done before you, that is first for institutional use? Or will the Vanderbilt exoskeleton be for personal use from the start?
* Michael: The exoskeleton was designed for personal use, but the commercial partner will undoubtedly start with institutional markets, then progress to personal (consumer) markets.

* Gene:  Do you have an idea of the target price range of the Vanderbilt exoskeleton?
* Michael: This is to be determined by our commercial partner. My hope is that they will bring it to market at a much lower cost than the other systems you mentioned. Of all these systems, ours is the only one for which the development was funded by the US government (NIH), and our commercial partner need not recover these development costs, and therefore may be better positioned relative to the others to bring it to market at a lower cost. 

An improved exoskeleton at a lower cost would certainly be a huge step. If anyone knows of other exoskeletons for wheelchair users which will soon be coming to market, please contact me at RehaDesign "AT" Gmail "Dot" com. Read more about exoskeleton suits for wheelchair users

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Have a Blogger Blog? Add Google Plus Button FAST

Would you like to increase the traffic to your blogger blog? Would you like to make your blogger posts found more easily? One way to do that is to add a Google Plus Button to your blog as well as after each of the blog posts. If you do not understand what that means,  look to the left and right of the Wheelchair Pride Blog (this blog you are reading now):

* Do you see that G+1 followed by "Recommend this on Google"? (To your left)
* Do you see that "I'm on G+ / Add to circles"? (To your right)

* Now look at the bottom of this post (and every post of this blog). Look directly above where it says "labels". Do you see all of those little icons? If you hover your mouse over them you will see "share to facebook", "share to twitter", "Recommend this on Google"

Adding those buttons could increase your traffic.  Would you like to add those buttons to your Blogger blog easily and quickly? Even if you have no technical ability? Then check out this article about How To Add Google Plus To Blogger. Note that this only applies to Blogger Blogs, but probably something similar applies to Word Press Blogs as well.

Friday, July 6, 2012

ReWalk Vs Ekso Exoskeletons: How Do They Compare?

Most articles I read about exoskeletons for wheelchair users are very one dimensional, generally focusing on one of the exoskeleton brands and doing very little in depth analysis of Exoskeletons, the market or their potential. But I highly recommend this article by Ted Greenwald from Fast Company because Greenwald does what few journalists do. He really goes into depth about the subject. I even learned a few things. For example, in this paragraph Greenwald writes why one Rehab Center chose Ekso over ReWalk:
Denison chose the Ekso over the ReWalk-I from Argo Medical of Israel. The Israeli device, which is in use at several U.S. rehab facilities, does offer capabilities the Ekso can't match: It can climb stairs and navigate inclines, and its steps are activated by the wearer's gestures rather than a therapist's button presses. But other therapists who had used the ReWalk told Denison that it took too long to get patients in and out of it.
I found it interesting that a Rehab Center selected an exoskeleton for how easy it is to put on over superior performance and functionality. If anyone else has experience with the different exoskeletons or has read articles which compare the different exoskeletons, please contact me at RehaDesign (AT) Gmail (dot) com. Read more about exoskeletons for people with disabilities.