Tuesday January 21, 2020
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Now Paralyzed Can Also Walk Due To Exoskeleton Technology

Technology helps in walking

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Patrick Wensing tests out an Ekso Bionics exoskeleton in his lab at the University of Notre Dame. He and his team are working to make the machines more intuitive.
Patrick Wensing tests out an Ekso Bionics exoskeleton in his lab at the University of Notre Dame. He and his team are working to make the machines more intuitive. VOA

An accident, a stroke, or a disease can leave someone paralyzed and unable to walk. That happens to more than 15 million people around the world each year.

But new technological advances and physical therapy could help some of them walk again.

Among the most promising is the use of robotic exoskeletons, like one made by Ekso Bionics. It looks a bit like a backpack that straps on the user’s back and around the midsection. Robotic ‘legs’ complete with foot panels extend from either side of the pack and wrap around the patient’s legs. A video game-style controller attaches to the pack with a long cord.

The EksoGT robotic exoskeleton is being used in more than 200 rehabilitation centers around the world, including Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital.
The EksoGT robotic exoskeleton is being used in more than 200 rehabilitation centers around the world, including Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital. VOA

“I’m going to be a robot!”

Lindsey Stoefen has been doing physical therapy with the exoskeleton for an hour a day, as she works to recover from the rare disorder that put her in a wheelchair in October.

The 17-year-old athlete climbed into a specially designed exoskeleton for the first time in late April, after becoming an in-patient at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Chicago.

She recalls being nervous. “I was like ‘Dang, I’m going to be a robot!’ I was scared at first. I was like, ‘Am I going to like it? Will I be okay?’ And once I got into it, I loved it.”

Lauren Bularzik, Lindsey’s physical therapist, says the exo robots help to accelerate the rehabilitation process. “For someone who takes a lot of energy to only walk a few feet, exo can get them up, can get them moving, it can supplement their movements, get that reciprocal pattern, encourage the correct motor planning.”

Beside speeding up recovery times, these robotic skeletons are especially helpful for those with paralysis, from spinal cord injuries and strokes. Using the machine can help some patients rewire their brains to use secondary muscles, so they can eventually walk again – without the device.

The downside

Scientists at the University of Notre Dame are leading the way with their work on wearable robots that allow patients to regain some or all of their mobility. But Patrick Wensing, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, says exoskeletons have one big drawback.

Bionic exoskeleton helps wheelchair users stand and walk
Bionic exoskeleton helps wheelchair users stand and walk. Flickr

“While existing exoskeletons are very powerful, they don’t understand what the user wants to do. So in order to transition between activities in daily life, you often have to press a button interface to tell the exoskeleton ‘I would like to stand up now.’”

Wensing and his team are collaborating with Ekso Bionics, a leading developer of wearable robots, to create a machine that can understand what its user wants to do without implanted sensors and complicated control panels.

The new three-year project funded by The National Science Foundation’s robotic initiative, hopes to achieve a more fluid, intuitive system.

Taylor Gambon has spent the last year analyzing data from exoskeleton users and comparing them to models of everyday walking. “What we’re seeing is that slow walking in general, whether in the exoskeleton or just the human, is much different from walking at a speed that you would choose naturally.”

Also read: Heart patients who walk faster hospitalised less

Later this year, the team will travel to Ekso Bionics’ California headquarters, where they will work directly with exoskeletons to design programs that interact with users of various disabilities, so that more people like Lindsey Stoefen can get back on their feet again. (VOA)

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71% Parents Feel That Video Games May Have Positive Impact on Kids

71% parents believe video games good for teens

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Video Games
86 per cent of parents agree that teeagers spend too much time on video games. Pixabay

Seventy-one per cent of parents believe that video games may have a positive and healthy impact on their kids’ lifestyle, while 44 per cent try to restrict video game content, says a new study.

According to the CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health in US, 86 per cent of parents agree that teeagersspend too much time gaming. Parents also reported very different gaming patterns for teenage boys than girls.

Twice as many parents said that their teen boy plays video games every day compared to parents of teen girls. Teen boys are also more likely to spend three or more hours gaming.

“Although many parents believe video games can be good for teens, they also report a number of negative impacts of prolonged gaming,” said poll co-director Gary Freed from University of Michigan.

Video Games
Parents can play an important role by setting clear rules about appropriate content and how much time is too much time spent on video games. Pixabay

“Parents should take a close look at their teen’s gaming behaviour and set reasonable limits to reduce harmful impacts on sleep, family and peer relationships and school performance,” Freed added.

Overall, parents surveyed said that gaming often gets in the way of other aspects of their teen’s life, such as family activities and interactions (46 per cent), sleep (44 per cent), homework (34 per cent), friendship with non-gaming peers (33 per cent) and extracurricular activities (31 per cent).

Parents of teens ages 13-15 (compared to those with older teens) are more likely to use rating systems to try to make sure games are appropriate (43 per cent versus 18 per cent), encourage their teen to play with friends in person rather than online and to ban gaming in their teen’s bedroom.

Parents polled also use different strategies to limit the amount of time their teen spends gaming, including encouraging other activities (75 per cent), setting time limits (54 per cent), providing incentives to limit gaming (23 per cent) and hiding gaming equipment (14 percent).

The researchers noted that while gaming may be a fun activity in moderation, some teens -such as those with attention issues — are especially susceptible to the constant positive feedback and the stimulus of video games.

Also Read- Tech Giant Apple Empowering Students in Burhanpur Pen Success on iPads

This may lead to prolonged play that is disruptive to other elements of a teen’s life, the researchers added.

“Parents can play an important role by setting clear rules about appropriate content and how much time is too much time spent on video games,” Freed said. (IANS)