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ABLE: lightweight and affordable exoskeletons for walking again

able exoskeletons

Car accidents, falls, voluntary or involuntary participation in violent acts and the blows suffered in certain sports are usually behind spinal injuries, but they are not the only causes. Cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and inflammation of the spinal cord can also cause such injuries. Mobility here is the most affected function and, with it, comes a series of associated physical and psychological conditions.

Recovering mobility after suffering a spinal cord injury or stroke is complex, and not just because of a matter of physical will or ability. It is essential to have the necessary professional help, and this without even talking about the time it takes to start a recovery process and see its results. In addition, we all know very well that the word time in medical therapies is proportionally equivalent to money, huge expenses and often impossible to assume for the vast majority of those affected.

able human motion tech for change 6

The use of exoskeletons to help those affected by spinal injuries in their recovery is certainly not something new, although the real revolution could come with two features so far absent in these devices: less weight and greater affordability.

And most of the now existing exoskeletons weigh more than 20 kilograms and cost more than $ 100,000 dollars. Consequently, these teams are usually only in the possession of hospitals and institutions, and require qualified personnel to operate them. But what if it were possible to take these exoskeletons home and use them as will be done with crutches or more common orthopedic equipment?

This has been precisely the vision of ABLE Human Motion, a young company (never better said) born in Barcelona, ​​Spain, and that in a few years has added a host of awards, without the hope of thousands of people who now see a more reachable and easier possibility of moving again with greater independence.

Among the most common causes of paralysis, are stroke and spinal cord injury, and WHO estimates that there are 500,000 new cases each year. We speak then of a technology that could mean a revolutionary advance for many patients, who will help alleviate the complications associated with injury with a sedentary lifestyle such as spasticity, chronic pain, osteoporosis or cardiovascular and digestive problems, all this without counting on the serious social and psychological consequences that it supposes.

A passionate and nurtured multidisciplinary team is behind the company: engineers, physiotherapists, doctors, rehabilitators and, of course, orthopedic technicians. At the head of all of them, Alfons Carnicero, industrial and biomedical engineer, co-founder and CEO of ABLE Human Motion, who between prize and prize, between talks and presentations answered the questions of Digital Trends in Spanish.

Why did you decide to create ABLE Human Motion?

Since I was little, there are two things that have fascinated me: technology and sports. During my studies I always tried to apply the knowledge learned to the sport: I worked with players of FC Barcelona basketball to improve their launching technique, and with athletes from the High Performance Center of Sant Cugat to study their long jump technique. However, when I was finishing my Industrial Engineering Degree, my father suffered a stroke, something that changed the focus of my professional career.

“He studied the Biomedical specialization of the Master of Industrial Engineering and worked at the Institut Guttmann, where he discovered the limitations of current rehabilitation technologies, and Implantcast, a German company where he designed knee implants. With the mission of improving the quality of life of people with disabilities, ABLE Human Motion cofund, a spin-off of the UPC where we develop lightweight, easy-to-use and economical robotic exoskeletons. ”

We are already seeing how this idea came about… How long has the team been working on it?

The initial idea arises in 2013 from a doctor from La Corua (northern Spain), who observed that a group of patients did not have devices adapted to their needs (spinal injuries below the thoracic vertebra 10), but only robotic exoskeletons thought for any paraplegia, which are practically inaccessible to the average citizen (they cost about 100,000 euros: more than $ 110,000 dollars) and little verstiles for the day to day (they weigh about 20 kg). There was born a joint investigation between the Universitat Politcnica de Catalua (UPC), Corua (UDC) and Extremadura (UEX) that gave rise to the first prototypes of this lightweight, easy-to-use and economical exoskeleton.