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Robotic Exoskeleton
March 27, 2013   
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A Polish inventor has built a robotic device that helps people with muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis to move their limbs. The device detects subtle electrical impulses in muscles using a technique called electromyography (EMG).

The inventor, Michał Mikulski, a postgraduate student at the Silesian University of Technology in the southern city of Gliwice, says the device’s task is not to move the patient’s limb in a random way, but to aid its movement. The device detects that the patient is tightening his or her muscles in order to bend the elbow and aids this movement if the patient is lacking the strength. Thanks to that, rehabilitation may be more efficient as the patient is required to make an effort, instead of just letting the mechanic arm take care of the whole movement, Mikulski says.

The results of the first tests are promising. The designers have used a robot mounted on a patient’s arm and forearm to aid elbow movement. Now a company set up by Mikulski, EgzoTech, is working to launch production of the device.

“If we manage to start production by the end of this year, our device will be the world’s first commercially available rehabilitation station of its kind,” says Mikulski.

EgzoTech is also working on the prototype of a more complex device that will assist in the rehabilitation of other joints as well. The machine is not yet finished. It will be initially designed for use in rehabilitation centers, where patients will use it under professional guidance. If the device meets the patients’ needs and gets a thumbs-up from rehabilitation experts, a home version of it may be developed designed for use by individual patients on their own.

Mikulski is also working on another device in a research project that aims to build a powered lower-limb exoskeleton. Details of the project have not been released so far. “This will be a device that will be attached to the patient’s hips, thighs and shanks. The product will be designed for use by patients suffering from paraplegia, which is paralysis of the limbs. The first version will allow patients to make some basic movements, such as getting up, sitting down and walking forward,” says Mikulski.
T. R.
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