Exoskeletons, Explained

An exoskeleton is an external device that supports, covers and protects its user. The first human exoskeletons were invented to enhance human performance when performing tasks such as hauling heavy loads, and they were used in a military environment.

There were the first explorations into the way man and machine can be connected.

The Benefits of Exoskeletons

For many individuals who have had a stroke or spinal cord injury, what follows is an extended hospital stay with a focus on adjusting to current capacity with as much independence as possible. While traditional therapy has come a long way, the fact is that it can take a lot of therapists to get a client moving again.

The benefit of an exoskeleton is that it becomes an additional tool for the therapist, and can reduce the number of staff, while giving trainers get real time data on performance. This allows trainers to continue to monitor a client’s capacity and tailor therapy plans to their goals and current level of mobility.

For many of our clients an exoskeleton is something that looks futuristic, but they’re here today and ready to be used!

When we first introduce clients to the exoskeleton, we begin with an initial assessment package to help familiarise our clients with the technology.

All sessions are done with a bodyweight support system. While the exoskeleton only weighs 14kg, this system helps take the weight of the exoskeleton and the wearer as needed, while training on a treadmill.

Exoskeletons in a clinical setting are used to assist clients to perform actions like supported standing, walking and working on balance. Exoskeletons like REX, Ekso Bionics, Indego are driven by the clinician who programs levels of assistance for the wearer to be moved passively. Other exoskeletons like the Rewalk are used as an ambulation tool for the community, with some cases being as a replacement for a wheelchair.

Exoskeletons at RoboFit

Here at RoboFit, we’re changing rehab by using the HAL family of exoskeletons, developed in Japan by Cyberdyne inc. This exoskeleton is different from the others in a crucial way: it keeps walking as an active activity, vital to neuroplasticity. All of the supports provided are targeted, and can be scaled up and down depending on the wearers’ function, ensuring that the wearer is always pushing themselves to build their capacity. In other words, the HAL exoskeleton walks with the wearer, not for the wearer.

HAL provides assistance by using electrodes to detect movement intent and then providing a proportional amount of assistance as required. For example, if you can put in 60% of the effort required to move your left leg, you would then receive 40% from HAL. This ensures that you’re still training when using the exoskeleton. Training with HAL encourages the formation of new neural pathways, in a process that’s known as neuroplasticity. After several sessions, clients have experienced new ranges of motion, opened up by the use of HAL.

 

To learn more about how the HAL Exoskeleton can work with you to reach your goals, get in touch at the link below.

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