We're a little crazy, about science!

Exoskeleton experiments

Just a few of the exoskeletons we have in the main lab, two of them are self balancing the other two in the shot are not, but they all have different purposes.

Well let’s toss something else into the pile of “things I’m going to talk about, but can’t share the details because we’re working on a publication.” I’ve got yet another new project I’m working on! This is going to be so freaking cool and I’m super excited to start it. So let’s go over some of the details, at least the bits I can talk about. Eventually when all this stuff gets published, I’m going to have a ton to write about.

So as most of you know, if you’ve been reading for awhile, I work in a brain machine interface lab, or at least that was where I was spending most of my time before I started working in a clinical research lab. We’ll call that my primary lab, even though it’s definitely not anymore.

In that lab we do all sorts of cool things, like build brain controlled prosthetic hands for example! But we also do a lot of exoskeleton work, we own like half a dozen of them and they get a lot of use for different projects. From stroke research to spinal cord injury research, we even are able to use brain-machine interface to use your mind to make them walk! At least in the case of the self balancing ones we have.

We also build exoskeletons. I’ve helped with design and I still help, to a limited extent, build them. Spending a lot of time building them and doing research is one thing, but we just got a new exoskeleton in my other lab, the one I spend most of my time in now, and we’re about to start a new set of experiments with them.

For the past couple of days, we’ve had training with the exoskeleton, but we also had some of the potential subjects for the study come in to test the exoskeleton. It’s a little unreal to see a finished exoskeleton when I’m so used to seeing the lab versions, they aren’t as polished or ready to go. Most of the time we have them in parts.

While we won’t have exoskeletons for general use anytime soon, for rehabilitation purposes, they are as close to amazing as we can get. Even for a complete spinal cord injury, being able to walk around improves heart function, digestion, and most importantly idiopathic pain. In fact, after just one use we had one subject tell us she lived at a 10 most of her days, but was at a 3 after just an hour of using the exoskeleton. While that may be an extreme result, it does show the promise of the technology, even in the limited use setting we have for it now.

Basically it was exciting to see them in use and ready for rehabilitation programs, working in a pure lab environment you get disconnected from the end user. I prefer working close with the end user and I always try to remind the people I mentor to design for what the end user wants, not what you think the end user wants. Working in a clinical setting gives me the chance to practice this philosophy and talk directly with the end users.


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