Exo-Aid moves beyond wearable exoskeletons and creates technology to truly augment or restore human motor functions. The envisioned Exo-Aids will allow for agile and versatile movements. They will be soft, lightweight, comfortable, intuitive to control, and affordable. Over the last decade various wearable robots have been designed to either augment, train, or supplement human motor function. However, immature technology has prevented its large-scale use. In this program we will develop innovative, commercially viable, and enabling technologies within four core areas:
- lightweight and energy efficient actuation;
- sensing combined with biomechanical modeling for user intention detection;
- soft and shell-like structures for lightweight and comfortable Exo-Aids; and
- balance and shared control of modular exoskeletons for stable, agile, and versatile movements.
These technologies will be integrated in Exo-Aids for three applications that have a high socio-economic impact:
- to restore mobility in patients with a spinal cord injury;
- to prevent progressive function loss in patients with muscular dystrophy; and
- to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders in dynamic heavy lifting (industry workers) or static high-precision work (medical surgeons).
We aim to realize the required breakthroughs by forming a strong interdisciplinary team with experts in robotics, biomechanics, human movement science, mechanical design, electrical engineering, and clinical science. Team members are academic and rehabilitation institutes and form a consortium with patient organizations and a wide variety of companies.