Human exoskeletons were a conceptual design for a very long time. It was only in recent years that these suits became a reality. Since the early 2000s, there have been some considerable breakthroughs made in this particular sect of research, however two of the biggest obstacles that researchers and retails always failed to overcome were pricing and the weight of their exoskeleton models.
With the help of researchers from UC Berkeley’s Human Engineering Laboratories, the California-based company Suitx developed the Phoenix exoskeleton. This device stands out from other human exoskeletons due to its lightweight framework (27 lbs), and $40,000 price tag. The suit’s weight makes it one of the lightest human exoskeletons on the market and while people may still scoff at the cost, it’s comparatively cheap to most other human exoskeletons on the market by at least half.
The key behind the Phoenix’s lightweight framework and affordability is the minimalistic design the suit’s researchers incorporated during its development. Despite making conscious efforts to strip off as much complexity in the suit’s design as possible (according to UC Berkeley and Founder of SuitX Professor Homayoon Kazerooni), researchers used state-of-the-art intelligence while resorting to the most basic framework possible to make the Phoenix simple to manufacture, which in turn helped bring costs down.
Taking the form of a motorized lower-body brace, disabled operators are able to walk (with the help of crutches) at speeds up to 1.1 mph. The Phoenix suit moves and bends the user’s legs for them and consists of a hip, two knee, and feet modules that help act as artificial muscles, which distribute the weight imposed by the user when they stand and move vertically. Operators of the exoskeleton suit can use these modules singularly or collaboratively, which helps reduce excess weight and in turn, prolongs battery life. One charge of the exoskeleton’s battery can enable the operator to continuously walk up to four hours, or use the suit intermittently up to eight hours.
Using an Android app, a trained clinician can set gait parameters to specifically fit the needs of the exoskeleton suit’s wearer. An “intuitive interface” is applied when the exoskeleton suit operator moves to sit and stand from a wheelchair with ease, during which the exoskeleton suit supports the operator’s lower-body weight as they rise to their feet.
SuitX is currently taking orders for the Phoenix, which is set to begin deliveries this month.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)