Millions of people in the world suffer from paraplegia and see the world every day with a one-metre-high perspective. The sudden loss of mobility often binds them to use a wheelchair for the rest of their life. Recent studies and clinical evidence have clearly demonstrated the clinical benefits that stem from the use of exoskeleton on different health aspects of paraplegic users, like bone density, reduced pain, improvement of bowel function as well as reduction of spasticity. Probably as important is the psychological aspect of being able to stand again and talk at eyes level in community. Many paraplegic people who had the chance to test an exoskeleton report that this feeling cannot be overstated.
Although it is nowadays widely accepted that exoskeletons have an overall healthy effect for SCI patient, the price of these high-tech devices ($70,000) and their unicity make them inaccessible for the common run of people. The result is that exoskeletons are almost exclusively found in rehabilitation clinics and are still almost inexistent for personal use. The benefits of using a personal exoskeleton daily would help reduce the health issues that ensue from paraplegia.
In light of this, the development of a modular exoskeleton for walking assistance began in February 2015 at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). The vision behind the development was to popularise exoskeletons for paraplegics and propose a high-performance device at an affordable price. The exoskeleton was developed to reach the following goals:
- Make a useful and usable device that can easily perform simple actions that are necessary to bring the user back some independence in daily life activities, like standing, walking and climbing stairs.
- Make a modular and customisable device that allows for adaptation to the wide variety of disabilities and morphologies. The usefulness of such a device would not be complete if only a few persons could use it.
- Develop an innovative technology that enables to manufacture such a customisable device at the price of a medium car. Mobilisation for everyone is our ultimate goal.