Florida Institute For Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) released a video of running a powered exoskeleton through an obstacle course. This video is significant because rehabilitation and assistive exoskeletons are usually shown moving back and forth in a clean corridor. This video is exactly the opposite. The IHMC (Mina V2) exo runs through a partial replica of the Cybathlon Powered Exoskeleton Race obstacle course as quickly as possible.
IHMC will be competing in the Powered Exoskeleton Race on October 8, 2016, in Zurich, Switzerland. The race consists of 6 tasks with a 10-minute time limit (the video only shows 5). Mark, the pilot, is paralyzed with a spinal cord injury, but he is in full control of the exoskeleton. The tether seen in the video is for fall protection and to log controller data.
Until now we have seen rehabilitation, medical and assistive lower body powered exoskeletons only on a clear terrain. The Cybathlon obstacle course aims to recreate a more realistic environment in which a medical wearable robot for personal use would have to be used. The six Cybathlon challenges are: sit and stand on a sofa, walking on a beam (narrow path), ramp and door, flat stones, tilted path and stairs (for more details see: Cybathlon Powered Exoskeleton Race.
It is very likely that the Cybathlon will be a turning point for exoskeleton development. Even if it isn’t, it is fantastic to see the technology being pushed to the limit. In this video, the operator almost loses balance by simply bumping one of the feet in front of the stairs. Exoskeleton controls and safety still have some ways to go before these wearables can be used without supervision. It is no wonder that our last two contributor articles focused exactly on those two topics:
- Exoskeleton Safety by Timothy Retter
- Building In Reflexes and Closed-Loop Communication Into Exoskeleton Design by Marcus Pyles