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Wearable Robots Getting Lighter, More Portable

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“None of them have fall prevention technology,” Jayaraman said. “If the person falls, they can hurt themselves badly. If you fall down, how do you get off a robot that is strapped into you?” They need to be even lighter and have longer-lasting batteries, he said.

Still, Jayaraman said, the devices might help prevent pressure sores from sitting too long in a wheelchair, improve heart health, develop muscle strength, lift depression and ultimately bring down medical costs by keeping healthier patients out of the hospital.

Companies in Israel, New Zealand and California make competing devices, and all the products are becoming less bulky as they are refined. The Indego was invented at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and tested at the Shepherd Center, a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta. It’s now licensed to Cleveland-based Parker Hannifin Corp., which makes precision engineered products like aircraft wheels and brakes.

Like many other research participants in clinical studies, Gore receives a stipend for his participation from Vanderbilt University.

It’s unclear exactly how much the devices will cost if they become available for personal use. Some technology news media reports have said $50,000 ((euro) 38,000) to $75,000 ((euro) 57,000). Indego’s makers want to bring the cost below that, said co-inventor Ryan Farris of Parker Hannifin. Experts say it will take years of research to prove health benefits before Medicare and private insurance companies would consider covering the expense.

Paul Tobin, president of the nonprofit advocacy group United Spinal, said wearable robots present an exciting opportunity but that patients should keep their expectations realistic.

“It’s going to be critical that people have a thorough medical evaluation before trying something like this, especially if they’ve been injured for some time,” Tobin said. “It won’t be appropriate for everyone. For some people, it will be a godsend.”

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Posted by FanSite on Jun 1st, 2013 and filed under Techline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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