We love exoskeletons. It’s not something you normally hear in conversation but we don’t hold back when it comes to our passion for advocating for the disabled. Besides, exoskeletons are just cool! Does anyone remember Sigourney Weaver in Aliens? So many of our clients have the same take-no-prisoners attitude of her character, Ripley, and we have no problem imagining any one of them thriving with one of the many models of exoskeletons available today. Let’s have a look, shall we?
We have all seen an elderly person with a walker, usually on wheels, that doubles as a chair. It has hand brakes that lock it in place, making it safe to sit. What if you could wear one? The inventors of The Chairless Chair have answered that question. It is a wearable brace that locks into place with the push of a button. The moment you need to move, it releases instantly. These assistive devices are typically referred to as “wearables.” This may be the first “chair-able.”
This device is not designed to keep shrapnel from entering your heart or fire repulsor rays. Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley pre-dates Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark by at least 20 years, but her exo-skeleton, the Power Loader, is closer in purpose and design to the one that Lowe’s is giving its workers. Lowe’s has been working with Virginia Tech’s Assistive Robotics Lab on lift-assist technology that will help employees lift and carry supplies. If this catches on, it will hopefully prevent many of the back injuries we see in our line of work.
After more than 100 years, you can still count on Ford to be on the cutting edge of technology. It is still adding to founder Henry Ford’s revolutionary moving assembly line concept. Workers on the assembly line still face repetitive overhead work. They physical demands are exhausting. An average worker might lift his or her arm 4,600 times per day, or about 1 million times per year. Again, our immediate concern is the potential for injury. Luckily, Ford shares our concern and has partnered with Ekso Bionics to create an upper body exoskeleton that elevates and supports a worker’s arms. This reduces fatigue, as well as the likelihood of injury. In return, Ford can look forward to improved productivity.
Moving on from vests, let’s talk about gloves. These vests and suits show great potential in terms of prevention, but this robotic glove is helping people who are already paralyzed. It is a wearable “soft robot” that fits like a glove. The motion of the wrist controls the fingers. Individuals with disabilities can grasp and lift things weighing up to a pound. They can pour their own beverages. Even the elderly can benefit from regaining a firmer grip.
Like its namesake, the Phoenix enables paraplegics to rise but that’s only the beginning. Its designer, suitX, calls it “the world’s lightest and most advanced exoskeleton.” This means that not only are users expected to rise from their chairs but walk as well! This affordable suit was specifically created for people with spinal cord injuries or those suffering from cerebral palsy. Wearers will be able to walk continuous for four hours on a single charge.