Exoskeleton systems are the wave of the future for helping the elderly and the injured. In the past, exoskeleton systems were bulky, heavy, and expensive contraptions, but researchers all over the world have been working hard for better ones – ones that won’t be so expensive, large, and cumbersome.
In fact, it won’t be long before new ones hit the market that most people can afford and wear comfortably no matter where they want to go.
Think of an exoskeleton system as a robotic assistant. The system can be fitted onto a person who has a difficult time moving. When the person wants to take a step, the robotic system picks up the person’s foot and moves the knee along with it. If a person wants to move his arm, again, the system would step into action and move the arm.
You can probably see how beneficial this could be to people who have a hard time getting around – everyone from the elderly to the disabled to the injured. In fact, the military has even been researching and investing in exoskeletons to improve the mobility and endurance of soldiers.
So let’s take a look at some of biggest movers and shakers of the industry right now.
Robotic Companies Specializing in Exoskeleton Systems
Parker-Hannifin Corporation (NYSE: PH) recently received the 2013 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Innovator Award for its Indego exoskeleton device, which serves as a brace for lower limbs. It provides torque and rotating power to hips and knees, designed specifically for people who have a difficult time walking.
The system only weighs about 27 pounds, according to the Wall Street Journal, which is significantly lighter than others that have been invented. It also has smooth control operation, which helps people feel as though they are moving all themselves. It’s highly transportable too, and it’s easily assembled and dissembled when needed. An elderly person with limited mobility could easily put this on and take it off.
For those who don’t need help walking but need power in their arms, Titan Arm was developed for them. Engineering students at the University of Pennsylvania developed a bionic arm to give people amazing strength.
Not only does it help people do things they normally couldn’t do, but it also builds strength in the arms, making it perfect for physical therapy. There’s even a feedback system attached, which can be used by doctors to track improvements in a user’s strength.
Another new exoskeleton system about to be released to the public comes from the Army. It’s been used by military personnel who have been injured. The system, called Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis and made by Hangar, enables people who have problems with their feet to walk.
The exoskeleton attaches below the knee and connects to the foot, and it goes right into the shoe. When a person takes a step and pushes on the plate, the system sends power to the leg, which enables the person to take the full step.
There’s no doubt exoskeletons will be something disabled people will want, and they are just getting better by the day.
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Scientific Advancements in Exoskeleton Systems
Scientists around the world are trying to take exoskeleton systems one step further. From Euronews:
Michel Ilzkovitz a telecommunications engineer,at Space Applications Services Mindwalker project said: “Ideally, we would like to develop a system that is able to control the exoskeleton just by capturing the signals coming from the patients brain cortex. We are still not able to achieve that, for a number of reasons. First we have the skull barrier. The skull stands between the brain signals and the instruments developed to measure them. That means that often the signals we get are not neat, nor clear enough to be used. We then have the difficulty of dealing with the vibrations created by the exoskeleton itself. This constant noise disturbs the quality of the brain signals we get and it makes it difficult to use them”.
To overcome the difficulties, researchers are looking for shortcuts to the brain. One such shortcut is through the eyes. They are working to help the retina to stimulate the brain, so they can identify and isolate the brain signals to potentially control the exoskeleton.
For investors like you, exoskeleton systems could be important to watch. Baby boomers are entering retirement, and by the time these systems become widely available to the public, this generation may require them for improved mobility.
As you may know, baby boomers – those born in the United States between 1946 and 1964 – make up about 20 percent of the American population right now. There could be a huge market for improved mobility as this generation ages.
Robotics companies are going to continue to come out with new advancements in these types of technologies. And the elderly and medical community will be two of the biggest consumers. This means there’s going to a lot of money poured into these companies over the next few years.
Things are quiet right now as companies continue researching improvements in exoskeleton systems, so the time to get into it is now. Do some more research, and you’ll start to see how exciting and lucrative this investment could end up being a few years down the road.
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