Sharjah24 – Reuters: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tested an electronic self-balancing exoskeleton designed to rehabilitate disabled people and help them move and walk. The device works to support the patient’s limbs and help him balance and move.
As soon as Oscar Constanza gives the order, a large frame strapped to his body lifts him up, and he starts walking.
"It's new for me, because previously I've always needed assistance to walk, and now, I no longer need assistance, so I feel independent."
16-year-old Constanza has a genetic neurological condition that means his nerves don't send enough signals to his legs.
This exoskeleton, an outer frame that supports and simulates body movement, is now giving him some degree of independence.
One of the engineering minds behind this invention is Constanza's own father - Jean-Louis, who co-founded the company Wandercraft.
"There are three of us who are the founders of Wandercraft, which was founded in 2012. Two of the founders, including myself, have loved ones in our family in wheelchairs. For me, it's my son Oscar, and one day, he said to me, 'Dad, you're a robotics engineer, why don't you make a robot that will help me me to walk?'"
Other companies across the world are also manufacturing exoskeletons, competing to make them as light as possible.
Some are focused on helping people with disability walk, others on a series of applications, like making standing less tiring for factory workers.
For Jean-Louis, the purpose of his product is simple.
"We're doing all this work because we are sure that in 10 years, there will be no longer be, or much fewer wheelchairs. Wheelchairs are an anomaly. Men, women, human beings are meant to be upright."
Wandercraft's exoskeleton has been sold to dozens of hospitals in France, Luxembourg and the U.S.
The company said it is not ready for private individuals' everyday use as a personal exoskeleton would need to be much lighter.
Kevin Piette, who lost his ability to walk in a bike accident 10 years ago, said trying the robot on gave him a taste of autonomy.
"I'm convinced that there are plenty of people who would like to be able to gain back this autonomy or at least the advantages of being upright, be it one, two, three hours per day, to be able to make progress today in your home while upright. I think there are already huge benefits for the body, also emotionally and socially. There are plenty of benefits to having it in your home and in the future, having it outside of course. I think that will please a lot of people, that's for sure."