I always smile when I see a bumper sticker or T-shirt that proclaims, “Science! It works!” or something similar. It can be easy to lose sight of the idea that science is something that is meant to improve life. Not only are those T-shirts celebrating science, they are celebrating its ability to improve the world around us.
One example of how science is improving people’s lives can be found in the various exoskeleton designs that are moving toward common availability. I can’t think of any better motivator to show up for work every day than knowing you are designing something that will improve the quality of life for thousands of people.
Parker-Hannifin’s contribution to exoskeleton development is the Indego system. The design was licensed from Vanderbilt’s Center for Intelligent Mechatronics, and represents Parker-Hannifin’s first venture into the medical industry. The exoskeleton offers a chance for paraplegics to gain additional mobility outside of a wheelchair.
“You can think of our exoskeleton as a Segway with legs,” said Michael Goldfarb, Vanderbilt professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation. “If the person wearing it leans forward, he moves forward. If he leans back and holds that position for a few seconds, he sits down. When he is sitting down, if he leans forward and holds that position for a few seconds, then he stands up.”
Parker-Hannifin is working in a partnership with the Shepherd Center in Atlanta to continue development of the Indego exoskeleton, and help the device gain approval from the FDA.
“Shepherd Center is the only rehabilitation facility to have tested Indego and the two other devices currently being marketed by other companies as exoskeletons,” said Craig Maxwell, vice president of technology and innovation at Parker-Hannifin.
In related news, it was just announced that 10 hospitals in Japan will begin conducting clinical trials of Cyberdyne’s robotic exoskeletons, called “Robot Suit HAL,” in March. Thirty adults will take part in the trials. The suit is the brain child of Yoshiyuki Sankai at the University of Tsukuba.
Below you’ll find a video of the Parker-Hannifin exoskeleton during testing.