People who suffer from lower limb paralysis may one day walk again thanks to the EU-funded project, MINDWALKER.
For lower limb disabled people, the lack of mobility often leads to limited participation in social life. Of course, they can use wheelchairs to move around. But their mobility is fairly limited.
To help them perform their usual daily activities in the most autonomous and natural manner, the EU-funded research project MINDWALKER, launched in 2010, has developed an intelligent exoskeleton.
This project is a clever mix of mechanics, electronics, brain activity measurement devices, computer technology, and virtual reality training. It has created a functional prototype of a lower limb exoskeleton that could be activated either through brain waves detected by dry electrodes directly placed on the head in a little cap, by upper body muscle activity measurements (when a person walks, at the same time they move their arms and their shoulders) or by luminous signals.
All these functions were combined to develop an integrated system. This system has been successfully tested in May 2013 on patients in Italy. It is an exoskeleton capable of supporting the weight of an adult, ensuring walking stability and enabling different walking abilities.
The prototype exoskeleton now requires extra research initiatives beyond the scope of the MINDWALKER project in order to become fully exploitable.
The current cost of making whisker-like electronic tactile sensors is around EUR 1 million per kilogram.
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