Thursday, 28 Apr, 2011 Technology

Top 10 Robotic Exoskeletons


With a great development in technology, especially in the robotics field, different companies started building robotic exoskeletons some of which were initially intended to be used by the military, others hit the traditional market to help people with physical disabilities. Below we have selected some of the most impressive exoskeletons launched over the last couple of years.

ReWalk - Exoskeleton from Israel

This exoskeleton was developed to help paraplegics. It allows the user to stand and move.

According to the inventors, the robot can even help paraplegics to climb stairs. The name of the device is ReWalk and its authors are specialists working at Israel-based Argo Medical Technologies.

The official presentation of the device took place Naidex product fair that took place at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.

It is worth mentioning that ReWalk will also be used by the military to help injured soldiers. The device will be commercially available later this year and the United Kingdom will be one of the first nations to test the new exoskeleton. ReWalk will have a price tag of 50,000 British pounds.

Rex - Exoskeleton from New Zealand

Dubbed Rex, the exoskeleton was developed by Rex Bionics, a company from New Zealand.

The device is composed of a pair of robotic legs that help people suffering from paraplegia to stand and walk.

The user will need some time before learning how to control the device but after that Rex will bring the joy of walking back again. In order to move the user has to use a special joystick and a control pad.

In addition, to be able to use this exoskeleton the user has to be between 1.46m and 1.95m long and has to have a weight that does not exceed 100 kilograms. The price of this device is $150,000.

It was launched officially in New Zealand and is expected to hit other markets by the middle of 2011.

eLEGS – Exoskeleton from California

The first person to have tested this exoskeleton was Amanda Boxtel. She suffered from and damaged spinal chord that lead to a paralysis from waist down 18 years ago.

With eLEGS she managed to stand and walk. Her first steps after the accident took place in Berkeley, California. This exoskeleton was developed for people who suffered from spinal injuries.

Just like the previous exoskeleton, this one requires some skills before the user can use it properly. The eLEGS was tested by researchers at Berkeley Bionics in California.

It is worth mentioning that this robotic exoskeleton was not developed for the military, being one of the few devices that aim at helping people with spinal cord problems.

HULC – Exoskeleton from Massachusetts

This exoskeleton was developed by Southborough-based firm Protonex Technology Corp. This device was mainly created to support troops during their missions in different areas on the globe.

It is worth mentioning that Protonex, which develops advanced fuel cell power systems, was chosen by the defense contractor Lockheed Martin to create power supply devices that will allow the new exoskeleton, called HULC to function properly during prolonged missions of 72 hours or more.

Lockheed Martin says that HULC is currently powered by lithium polymer batteries. Inside the exoskeleton there's a micro-computer that detects the user's actions to ensure that HULC moves in sync with the user.

New Exoskeleton from MIT Researchers

A new robotic exoskeleton was developed by researchers in Cambridge, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The device uses less energy than other similar exoskeletons, requiring only one watt. Besides, it is more lightweight than other similar devices, weighting only 11.7 kilograms (26 ponds).

This wearable machine for the lower body was created to help people to carry weighty cargos on their backs.

It could be used by hikers, soldiers, and why not students who have to carry too many textbooks.

In addition, the MIT exoskeleton is powered by a 48-volt battery pack.

At its hip and ankle the device features flexible energy storage elements and at its knee the exoskeleton boasts a variable-damping apparatus.

More information on the device find here.

XOS - Exoskeleton by Ratheon Sarcos, Utah

Just like the exoskeleton HULC, this device was developed mainly for military use, but it may also be used by civilians.

It considerably increases a soldier's efficiency, allowing lifting heavy loads of up to 200 pounds repetitively without tiring. Soldiers will also be able to carry heavy cargos on long distances and rescue wounded soldiers.

Besides it can help people with certain physical disabilities. So far the device is in the trial phase but it could soon be commercially available. Built by Sarcos, the XOS exoskeleton was acquired by Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Massachusetts.

Currently researchers are working on making XOS more self sustainable, so it won't require a lot of energy every now and then.

Walking Assist Device by Honda, Japan

Just like the previous machine this experimental device, developed by Honda, was created to help people with mobile problems, especially the elders.

The main difference from other exoskeletons is that it attaches only to the user's legs. Its goal is to lower the strain of walking.

With this device the people will not only be able to walk, but also sit down in a saddle-like seat and band their feet into 2 shoes connected to the artificial limbs.

The biggest part of the user's weight is supported by the device, lowering the strain to the joints in the knees, ankles and hips.

The exoskeleton is equipped with a lithium ion battery, which however, lasts for only about 2 hours (in case the user walks at a speed of 2.8 miles per hour).

HAL-5 - Exoskeleton by Cyberdyne, Japan

The International Forum on Cybernics 2011 that took place in Tokyo in the period between March 8 and 9 witnessed the presentation of a new-gen exoskeleton called HAL-5 (Hybrid Assistive Limb).

Developed by the Japanese company Cyberdyne Inc, the robotic suit allows ordinary people to lift heavy objects. In case some minor modifications are made the device could be used by the elderly and people with physical disabilities. In addition, it can be used to carry heavy loads.

One of the most impressive things about this exoskeleton is that it can be controlled using the power of mind. It makes use of electrical signals of the brain that are transmitted to muscles and then anticipates the user's motion. Afterwards HAL estimates how much power the wearer plans to produce and sends the right amount to the right joints of the robot. It would be interesting to note that the exoskeleton makes all calculations in just fractions of a second, taking the interaction of human with machine to a new level.

The robotics pioneer Yoshiyuki Sankai of Cybernics managed to wind MIT's Inventor of the Week award for this exoskeleton. The latter is equipped with a small motor and a wireless computer located in a pouch connected to the belt.

This commercial suit could have a price tag ranging between $14,000 and $19,000. Cyberdyne mentioned that the clinical trials of its new exoskeleton are expected to take place in 2012.

LOPES - Exoskeleton from the Netherlands

Finally after 10 years of research and development the LOPES exoskeleton has been launched by a group of scientists from the University of Twente, the Netherlands.

The goal of the team was to create a robotic suit that would help stroke victims walk again. Apart from most exoskeletons, this one allows for 8 degrees of freedoms, offering legs a better movement.

Researchers plan to get their invention into rehabilitation clinics by early 2012 and make it commercially available by the mid-2012.

Currently the team is improving its device to make it more compact and easier to regulate for more personalized training.

Kid's Walker - Robotic Suit from Japan

Developed by Sakakibara Kikai, this exoskeleton was built neither to assist the elderly nor help the paraplegics; it was developed for pure entertainment.

Interestingly enough the Japanese company focuses on building agricultural machinery, but on its official website there's an amusement section where you can see a device called Kid's Walker.

Powered by a gasoline engine, the robotic exoskeleton for children weights 180 kilograms and measures 1.6 x 1.6 x 1.3 meters. In the video you can see the device in action.

It would be interesting to note that the suit also features a gun-shaped launcher of soft cushion balls. The company's website, unfortunately offers very little details on its invention.

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//1 Feb 24, 2020 12:04 PM | posted by: Thomasper
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