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No more Science Fiction – Exoskeleton Robot Teaches How to Walk

Satakunta University of Applied Sciences (SAMK) Research and Development Unit has made a significant investment by purchasing a robotized Indego exoskeleton made by Parker Hannifin Corporation. Exoskeleton is widely used for example in the rehabilitation of paralyzed patients but researchers are hoping to find also alternative applications for it.

12.12.2018 | By: Sari Merilampi, Petra O'Rourke | Photo: Fysioline/Parker Hannifin Corp.

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By combining exoskeleton to other treatment, the patient can be taught to walk again. Even though learning to walk would not succeed, the treatment given in an upright position has many advantages: the patient´s blood circulation gets better and that has a positive impact on bone density and the functioning of urinary bladder and intestines. The mental advantages given by exoskeleton treatment are also of importance. Having the same eye level with others, not to mention standing or walking is a dream of many wheelchair patients.

 

An optimal Indego user is 155 – 190 cm tall and weighs less than 113 kg. Before using exoskeleton the patient must have a physician´s consent for using it. Contraindications include for example low bone density, low tolerance to vertical position and blood pressure problems. (Picture: Parker Hannifin Corporation)

The American-made lower body Indego exoskeleton purchased for SAMK is a robotized device attached to the patient´s hips and legs, which enables the patient to stand and walk.

Exoskeletons are used especially in the rehabilitation of patients with spinal cord injury, cerebral infarction, multiple sclerosis and brain injury. The exoskeleton of SAMK is the third in Finland and the first purchased for higher education use.

 

Individual robotic treatment for patient

 There are several exoskeletons on the market aimed at different purposes. Indego exoskeleton has integrated motors built into hip and knee joints, which help the patient to walk. The motor-assisted help can be adjusted to 0 – 100 % in both legs, enabling individual treatment. According to project researcher Anja Poberznik this is one of Indego´s advantages.

– If the patient has for example hemiplegia, exoskeleton can easily be adjusted according to personal needs. Also physiotherapists benefit from exoskeletons: rehabilitation of paralytic patients requires continual motion and long and repetitive exercises with several physiotherapists supporting the patient. With exoskeleton the ergonomics of physiotherapists improve and only one person is needed to use it, Poberznik tells us.

 

 

(Picture: Parker Hannifin Corporation)

Robotics researchers excited

Researching Principal Lecturer Sari Merilampi and her team will start research connected to Indego exoskeleton in January. The plans include using SAMK exoskeleton in other research besides educational purposes in rehabilitation. Before that four SAMK employees with physiotherapist education will participate in a three-day intensive training, after which they will get Indego Specialist Certificate to use exoskeleton. Poberznik is one of them.

–I am really excited about this. I wrote my thesis on the topic and now I´ll have the opportunity to get to know and study the use of exoskeletons even closer. There is not much research information yet on mobile (vs. fixed) exoskeletons. The technology connected to exoskeletons is still new and innovative and I believe it could be utilized by combining it to augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) or games, Poberznik says.

 

 

Project researcher, physiotherapist Anja Poberznik´s thesis in English can be found on:

Therapeutic use of exoskeletons in spinal cord injury gait rehabilitation - a systematic literature review.

 

 

For more information:

Research Director Petteri Pulkkinen p. 044 710 3296

 

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