The popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.com is seeing a surge in funded exoskeleton projects. The vast majority of prototypes meant to turn into products have been non-medical, commercial powered wearables. This is not only curious but contrary to what should have been expected based on previous survey results. Let’s dive into the unique world of exoskeletons on Kickstarters.com.
According to Kickstarter.com, the site was launched in 2009, and it has been used by 22 million people who have backed a project, with $7,186,152,602 pledged and 236,175 projects having met their funding goal. The platform lists 33 projects matching for “exoskeleton.” However, of those, only 19 funding requests were for an exoskeleton device (a search for similar terms revealed only one additional wearable robotics project). The oldest project was “Dexmo: an exoskeleton for you to touch the digital world,” published in 2014. The newest exo Kickstarter is the “Hypershell: 1 Horsepower Exoskeleton for Everyday Adventure.” The Hypershell is a single motor powered commercial hip exoskeleton for hiking, and you can still support the crowdfunding effort if you choose to do so (link).
Amongst the exoskeleton ideas on Kickstarter.com that have received the most funds are two recreational-powered hip exoskeletons for hiking and exercising (both of which claim to feature some level of machine learning/AI), a chairless chair, two wearables designed to interact with AR and VR, the EduExo Pro STEM education kit, and a dynamically inflatable knee sleeve.
Kickstarter.com is a rare window into the world of consumer exoskeletons, where hobbyists, students, and startup companies can quickly test their concepts. Most exos shown are in their early prototype stage or even the concept phase, and it is up to each person to validate the accuracy of any device’s capabilities on their own.
Exoskeleton Funding Pledges see a Sharp Uptick
The amount of exoskeleton funding has dramatically increased over the last few years. In comparison, according to statista.com the total amount pledged to all Kickstarter.com projects has linearly risen throughout the same time range (2014-2022).
The data above suggests that the general public is becoming more interested in consumer exoskeletons and is willing to put down some money to be among the first to access this technology. Curiously, this directly contradicts the results from the American Pew Research survey of over 10,000 US adults. (see: ExR’s discussion on the survey results). Half of the participants did not approve of recreational powered exoskeletons with built-in AI in the survey. This suggested that there would be some resistance to powered consumer exoskeletons, yet the top two exoskeleton Kickstarters are both exactly it.