ReWalk powered exoskeleton now covered by the VA (US)

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”200″ /]The advancement of robotic assistance in movement and walking took a sizable step forward (so to speak) with the Veterans Administration now covering the cost of and transition to the ReWalk powered exoskeleton on a national basis. It will be supplied to qualifying veterans with spinal cord injuries, but that qualification is a substantial hurdle in itself. According to the AP article, height and weight requirements are specific, and the paraplegic veteran has to be capable of wearing the supportive belt around the waist to keep the suit in place and carrying a backpack which holds the computer and rechargeable battery. Crutches still must be used for stability and the FDA as part of its clearance requires an assistant be nearby. It also cannot be worn for a full day, but even minimal use was proven to be beneficial; in VA pilot studies, the paraplegics who wore the ReWalk as little as four hours a week for three to five months experienced better bowel and bladder function, reduced back pain, improved sleep and less fatigue.

ReWalk has identified 45 paralyzed veterans who qualify, (more…)

10th Anniversary Article 1: The Next Ten Years of Telecare

This year, on the 10th Anniversary of Telehealth and Telecare Aware, we have invited industry leaders nominated by our readers to reflect on the past ten years and, if they wish, to speculate about the next ten. Here is the first article, with a UK focus, by Dr Kevin Doughty.

Many of us are frustrated at how little progress there has been in the deployment and acceptability of telecare during the past decade. Yet, despite warnings that an ageing population was about to bankrupt the NHS (and health insurance schemes elsewhere in the world), and that access to social care for older people was being withdrawn at such a rate that it could only be afforded by the wealthiest in society, our health and social care systems have just about survived.

But this can’t go on, and in England over the past 12 months: (more…)

‘Soft’ exoskeleton gains $2.9 million in DARPA funding

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”120″ /]The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering an additional $2.9 million in development funding for its Soft Exosuit currently in prototype. The Wyss exoskeleton concept uses sensors, fabric that mimics muscles and tendons in addition to intuitive controls and a power supply. DARPA has been supporting several levels of research for some years as part of Warrior Web and other initiatives, which your Editors have been following. Exoskeletons in use right now are designed to assist humans in heavy lifting, or (more…)

ReWalk robotic exoskeleton clears FDA

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”130″ /]Finally one of the several exoskeletons under development to aid paraplegics to walk has gained FDA approval for its ‘personal’ version for use at home. The Argo ReWalk [TTA 21 Nov 13 and 2011 coverage] enables mobility for many paraplegics and mimics natural gait through wearable brace supports, motion sensors and a computer-based control system. Crutches are used for additional stability. It also has a rehabilitation version for clinical settings. The importance of mobility, even if limited, cannot be exaggerated. Wheelchair-only mobility can lead to muscle deterioration, blood clots and heart conditions. As part of the de novo clearance, ReWalk will be doing a post-market study for FDA to determine adverse events. One of the early adopters is Captain Derek Herrera, who works for the Marine Special Operations Command and whose unit is being donated by the MARSOC Foundation.  ReWalk release and website. Medgadget, MedCityNews, NBC.

First kick at World Cup will be by exoskeleton-equipped paraplegic

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”170″ /]A Duke University team’s robotic exoskeleton will be worn by a Brazilian for the ceremonial first kick at the first World Cup match (Brazil-Croatia) in São Paulo in June. According to Mashable, the development of the lightweight alloy (though not in appearance from the video) body assistive ‘walking suit’ is by a multi-national team headed by Duke professor Miguel Nicolelis. The suit is connected to an electrode cap that uses brain waves to direct physical motion, enabling the wearer to ‘think and move’. Prof. Nicolelis has trained nine Brazilian paraplegics, ages 20-40 with different types of paralysis, to use the suits, and three will participate in the opening ceremonies. Guardian (also illustration) Duke University video (Mashable).

Your Tuesday robot fix

Our first ‘robot fix’ for 2014 is a triple from Armed With Science (US Department of Defense):

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]The DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013, held 20-21 December in warm Homestead, Florida, turned out to be an early Christmas present for eight finalists out of 16 competitors. The top by far was the Robot S-One (left) from SCHAFT Inc. The remaining finalist developers in order were : Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, Carnegie Mellon University + National Robotics Engineering Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology + Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, TRACLabs Inc., Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Labs. They will divide $8 million in funding to prepare for the final DARPA competition for a $2 million award at end of this year. Article. Previously in TTA: DARPA field competition

[grow_thumb image=”×350.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]The TALOS is an outgrowth of both exoskeleton research and body armor, in development by the US Special Operations Command. “The goal is to provide operators lighter, more efficient full-body ballistics protection and super-human strength.” The suit has antennae and computers to provide enhanced situational awareness; cooled and heated; replete with sensors to monitor heart rate, temperature and body position–and may be able to deliver oxygen and hemorrhage controls. Research on this may also advance assistive exoskeletons for the disabled or prosthetics. Socom Leads Development of ‘Iron Man’ Suit

[grow_thumb image=”×108.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]’Start ’em young!’ could be the rallying cry of the 2014 VEX All-American Robotics Competition. Sponsored by the US Army and the Robotics Education Competition Foundation, the competition is designed to stimulate STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education prior to university. This article is about a high school and middle school competition in Texas. Overrun by Robots and STEM Powered by Robotics

3D printing for medical uses spotlighted

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]A newcomer to the health tech blog scene, InternetMedicine from John Bennett MD of Miami, Florida, presents an overview on 3D printing plus videos:  printing tissue (including the cartilage of a human ear), customized prosthetic limbs, customized exoskeletons (see Editor Charles’ bionic arm article), a personalized airway splint (caught at the NYeC DHC), bone scaffolds and cardiac models. 2014 may be the year of 3D printing for medical. 6 Promising Medical Applications of 3-D Printing

Exoskeleton to aid paraplegic in charity walk (US)

This past Sunday, architect Robert Woo walked a mile in NYC’s Riverside Park for Generosity NYC 5K. Now that would not be remarkable at all except that Mr. Woo is a paraplegic, and he is walking that mile with the aid of an Argo ReWalk exoskeleton. He and his ReWalk-equipped teammates are raising funds as Team ReWalk to aid the Bronx Medical Veterans Research Foundation/James J. Peters VA Medical Center’s Exoskeletal-Assisted Walking Program. Mr. Woo’s story is a memorable and courageous one from the time of his injury in a horrific construction-related accident six years ago; more in Paralyzed By Seven Tons Of Steel, Man Now Walks With A Bionic Suit (Gothamist). Video in this local CBS News clip. This is certainly the most developed version of an exoskeleton and robotics to enable paraplegics to walk, yet it is still not easy and requires specialized training; most exoskeletons to date have concentrated on assisting lower body movement. Hat tip to Donald Andrews of New York-Presbyterian/Lev El Medical via LinkedIn Groups.

‘For realsie’ take 2: DARPA seeking Warrior Web ‘super suit’ (US)

[grow_thumb image=”×283.jpg” thumb_width=”175″ /]The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) continues its work on its version of an exoskeleton, called previously a ‘mech suit’ and in this article a ‘super suit’, to ease the load on soldiers who routinely carry 80-100lbs in the field and rough terrain. They are now up to ‘Web Task B’ which pulls together the ‘Task A’ components into a prototype ‘fully integrated undersuit system’ that ‘significantly boosts endurance, carrying capacity and overall soldier effectiveness—all while using no more than 100 watts of power.’ (Concept at left, DARPA photo)  Proposals can be in one or more of five areas specified. Proposer’s Day was today, but information is here and proposals are due by 4 October. Hey DARPA! Where’s My Super Suit? (Armed With Science) Previously in TTA: ‘Warrior Web’ becoming a ‘for realsie thing’ [11 June]

‘Warrior Web’ becoming a ‘for realsie thing’

Interesting introduction in this Armed with Science article from the US Department of Defense describing DARPA’s ‘Warrior Web’ or ‘mech suit’ that is a soft, lightweight exoskeleton designed to help the average warrior humping 100-lb. equipment loads in rough terrain. In the Army, ‘for realsie’ means advanced prototype testing, this by the  Army Research Laboratory Human Research and Engineering Directorate (ARL HRED, another one of those acronyms) in a  five-month series of tests to evaluate multiple prototypes. Real progress and adoption here will have knock-on effects for advancing civilian development of assistance devices for the disabled and elderly. Includes 0:17 demo video. Warrior Web Prototype Takes First Steps