New Delhi [India]: People suffering with paraplegia (incomplete paralysis affecting the legs and possibly also the trunk) would now be able to stand, walk and even climb stairs as researchers at EPFL, Switzerland have developed an exoskeleton called TWIICE.
A walking assist device, developed entirely at EPFL’s Robotic Systems Laboratory (LSRO), can bear the entire weight of the user, who has to use crutches to maintain balance and a steady gait. There are buttons in the handles to actuate steps and set the pace: fast walk, slow walk, climb steps, stop, etc.
Embassy of Switzerland is celebrating the “Year of Swiss Innovation in India (YoSI)” 2015-16. This is to create awareness about the innovation ecosystem in Switzerland. Switzerland has topped the global innovation index for sixth consecutive year.
Talking about the functioning of TWIICE, the makers of the device told ANI, “TWIICE is a lower limb exoskeleton. It consists of a structure, which acts like our bones and provide support to the person, and of electrical motors which move the legs at the joints. There are four motors in total, two for the hips and two for the knees.”
Answering our doubts on the safety concern of device, they said, “Safety is a major concern of assistive devices. In the case of exoskeletons, the user is in charge of balance, and uses crutches to stabilize. Learning how to use an exoskeleton requires training, like learning how to ride a bike. After training, the user quickly becomes accustomed.”
The goal of TWIICE, according to them, is to offer users a personal and customized exoskeleton, tailored to their needs in terms of pathology, morphology and user experience. The design has intentionally been kept simple, thus conferring robustness, reliability and lightness to the device.
TWIICE weighs less than 15 kg, and unless others exoskeletons in the same weight range, it enables stair climbing and steep slope ascent. This is an important difference, as stairs are a major activity of the daily living.
“This exoskeleton is battery powered,” said the makers of TWIICE and added, “which makes it work completely autonomously, so that the user can walk outside and gain independence. The battery enables autonomy of two-three hours of active walking which can vary depending on the activity, as climbing stairs takes more power than walking or standing.”
When ANI asked the manufacturers about the reason of choosing India for promotion, they said, “Although statistics may vary, there are an estimated one million people who may need an exoskeleton to walk again in India. Our vision is to improve accessibility of this kind of technology to more people.”
“By increasing the number of devices produced, cost could substantially decrease and this would benefit all the people in need. There is a clear incentive from the Indian authorities to foster accessibility to technology for the disabled and our vision goes along the same lines,” they added. (ANI)