The California-based exoskeleton developer Ekso Bionics first teased us with an announcement of the EksoUE in July of 2019 and the company has finally released an official video. The EksoUE (or Ekso Upper Extremity) is a passive shoulder and elbow support exoskeleton for medical rehabilitation. It is in many ways similar to the EksoVest, one of the first spring-activated industrial shoulder-support exoskeletons.
An interesting feature of the EksoUE is that all fitting adjustments can be done without the use of tools in order to minimize don and doff time, optimizing the time for both patients and clinicians during a rehabilitation session.
The EksoUE is meant for upper extremity rehabilitation. It assists patients with various arm and shoulder impairments and provides gravity compensation while maintaining a wide range of motion. The video suggests that this passive exoskeleton can be useful for individuals affected by: stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barré, Brachial Plexus injuries, and orthopedic injuries. Initial users have included stroke patients with limited range of motion or mild impairment but limited endurance. The goal is to enable the patients to have longer rehabilitation sessions and/or ones with higher doses of intensity.
The EksoUE was designed in a collaboration between Ekso Bionics and The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with patient and clinician feedback from the Burke Neurological Institute. The original concept was tested by KATA Design Studio which designs experiments for neuro-motor training. Even though it is a passive device, the pilot study integrated the EksoUE with a therapeutic animated game for patients starting recovery from a recent stroke.
The EksoUE is registered with the FDA as a Class I medical device (for comparison, most powered walking assist exoskeletons that are registered with the FDA are Class II devices). The EksoUE will be initially available to select existing customers with a wider release planned for the U.S. and Europe.
Industrial Exoskeletons Turned Medical
Over the years there have been multiple examples of military exoskeletons being transformed into devices for assistance and physical rehabilitation. Industrial exoskeletons becoming medical ones, however, is something new. It is very likely that the EksoUE is the first passive medical exoskeleton to have its origin as a work&industry device for tasks at chest level or higher. It will be interesting to see if this will be the exception or perhaps this is the beginning of a new trend? Tens of thousands of exoskeletons are finding their way into factories and warehouses and they may start influencing how we perceive assistive aids for physical rehabilitation.
Introducing EksoUE, YouTube, Uploaded May 11, 2020, link
Ekso Bionics® Expands Its Medical Portfolio with Upper Body Exoskeleton for Rehabilitation, Global Newswire, July 24, 2019, link
EksoHealth, Ekso Bionics Website accessed May 13, 2020, link