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R&D Focus

New Exoskeleton Robot as a Life Changing Suit

Video of 2WA-EXO.

ITRI has developed a lower extremity exoskeleton robot 2WA-EXO, which provides those who are paralyzed from the chest down the ability to easily, independently, and safely stand up and walk again.

In Taiwan, approximately 1,200 individuals experience disabilities associated with spinal cord injury each year, leaving 92% of them unable to walk for the rest of their lives. Long-term use of wheelchairs can cause secondary complications such as osteoporosis, a bone disease characterized by a decrease in bone mass and density. ITRI has strived to seek a solution by developing walking assistive robotic technology. The exoskeleton robot is currently in its second generation, weighs 20 kg (7 kg lighter than the weight of the first-generation robot) and has a foot width of 7 cm (3 cm less than the foot width of the first-generation robot).

Mr. Tien-Tsung Shu, who sustained a T10 complete spinal cord injury from a motor vehicle accident, shared his personal experience of wearing ITRI’s exoskeleton robot. He started using ITRI’s exoskeleton robot weekly for one year as part of his physical therapy program.

ITRI’s wearable walking assistive exoskeleton robot.

ITRI’s wearable walking assistive exoskeleton robot.

Mr. Shu related that he had to use 80% of the strength in his arms in order to take one step using a traditional walking assistive device. However, he could walk less strenuously wearing an exoskeleton robot and could even easily make a pivot turn for 90-degrees.

The adjustable body and side stabilizer plates provide physical support for different injury levels. The robot gives non-embedded sole support, which allows users to wear their own shoes when using the device. Its battery and system module connects directly to the robot’s waist unit so that users can move without carrying the equipment. The design of ITRI’s exoskeleton robot is based on user requirements. The exoskeleton structure that can be opened at the waist allows the user to independently transfer between the robot and a wheelchair. Furthermore, the absolute body posture of the user can be accurately detected through a 9-degree-of-freedom inertial measurement unit, allowing the user to initiate or terminate walking movement by him/herself.

Unlike conventional equipment, which served only to stabilize lower limbs, ITRI’s robots can provide supplementary force to hip and knee joints, allowing users to conserve energy when walking or shifting between standing and seated positions. The mechanical design of the waist makes the exoskeleton easy to wear and take off. In addition, the length of the robotic legs is adjustable to fit users of different heights. With the aid of ITRI’s exoskeleton robot, people with spinal cord injury can lead a more independent lifestyle.