Assistive biorobotic
low-cost exoskeleton

Josep Maria Font


    Josep Maria Font


    Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Spain


    People with a spinal cord injury (SCI) could be able to participate in over-ground gait training if they had a robotic exoskeleton to restore the leg movements that were damaged by the injury. However, most of the exoskeletons that are currently on the market are expensive, heavy, complex to operate and not adapted to the patient.

    To develop a low-cost, light and easy-to-use lower limb exoskeleton with only the essential mechanisms and sensors to promote functional walking recovery of patients with SCI. This affordable device will allow patients to take an active role in their own rehabilitation, either at home or in a clinical setting.

    Problem to Solve
    Every year, around the world, between 250.000 and 500.000 people suffer an SCI. This injury causes disability, which in turn:

    • Carries secondary complications, like heart disease or diabetes.

    • Involves high economic costs, both for the patient and society.

    • Complicates social and occupational inclusion of patients.

    In order to enable patients to reintegrate into society, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends full access to assistive and rehabilitation devices to increase patient’s independence. However, the current technologies are expensive, heavy and complex to operate. As a consequence, they are only found in hospitals and large rehabilitation centres.

    The ABLE exoskeleton consists of three modular components: an actuation system at the knee that acts as an artificial muscle, a sensor at the shank that detects the user’s intention, and a backpack containing the electronics and power supply. The actuation and sensor modules are installed on the current passive orthopaedic supports, which are usually owned by the target patients.

    Level of Innovation
    A proof-of-concept prototype was built and tested at the laboratory on a subject with SCI. Results showed an increase in walking speed, step frequency, stride length and balance.