These are some of the major Research and Development related news in the exoskeleton industry for the period of October through the middle of November 2o16:
- ITRI wins R&D 100 Award for its lower body gait rehabilitation exoskeleton 2WA-EXO
- Conor Walsh from the Wyss Institute won the Rolex Award for mobility-enhancing soft exosuit
- Teleoperation is back in the news!
- EU BIOMOT project for improving powered exoskeleton control releases results
- Advanced knee exoskeleton from China revealed
ITRI Wins R&D 100 Award
The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) (headquarters in Taiwan) has won the prestigious R&D 100 Conference Award (link) for its new rehabilitation exoskeleton 2WA-EXO. The research institute touts its new gait rehabilitation device as uniquely featuring intuitive controls with posture detection. ITRI recently released a video of the 2WA-EXO on YouTube:
Last year ITRI won another R&D 100 Award for a soft material lined with pressure sensors that can detect desired movement and could be utilized as part of an exoskeleton control strategy. This soft “Higher Sensitivity Tactile-film System for Wearable Orthosis (HSTS)” material has since been used in a wearable exoskeleton prototype for tremor suppression (see video below from ITRI’s YouTube channel).
Conor Walsh wins Rolex Award
No stranger to the exoskeleton industry, the mastermind behind the Wyss Institute’s Soft Exosuit, Dr. Conor Walsh, has received the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. In addition, Rolex has produced one of the best videos to date on the subject of assistive exoskeletons (below). In June, ReWalk and Wyss announced a collaboration to market the soft exosuit for individuals with movement impairments. The Rolex video shows clearly how the Wyss team has taken their original focus to augment able-body individuals into this new direction. You can read more on the Rolex Award on the Wyss Institute website.
Teleoperation is back in the news!
Before the 2000s, remote teleoperation was considered one of the primary applications to exoskeletons. The idea was that a user fitted with an exoskeleton filled with sensors would remotely control a robot at any distance (up to and including space). With the advent of newer and lighter sensors, the need for a full exoskeleton to monitor the position of a human operator came into doubt. Lately, however, interest in teleoperation has begun returning to exoskeleton research. For example, some researchers are leveraging the exoskeleton to provide tactile force feedback in addition to recording the operator’s movements. Recently, the CAPIO project, a Russian-German collaboration has put a new teleoperation exoskeleton project in the news:
EU BIOMOT project releases results
While many companies are trying to commercialize exoskeleton technology, countless numbers of researchers are trying to broaden their understanding of the field. The BIOMOT project focuses on a more intuitive wearable to operator interface. This research can benefit nearly all powered exoskeleton projects. In the recent Cybathlon Exoskeleton Race for example, manually switching between operational modes was one of the biggest time wasters for the competing pilots. The BIOMOT (EU FP7 Project) team have released an informative video to highlight their results on YouTube:
Advanced knee exoskeleton developed in China
China’s People’s Daily reports that the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC) has developed a complex exoskeleton that more closely resembles the folding of the human knee joint (article link). This exoskeleton features “more than 10 joints and dozens of sensors”.
There are many reports of exoskeleton development rapidly gearing up in China, however, it is surprisingly challenging to get information on the subject. The details are very foggy on how much funding is being given by the Chinese government, what is the progress or even what types of exoskeletons are being developed.