Powered exoskeletons: Definition, history and benefits.

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Definition

Powered exoskeletons, also known as robotic exoskeletons, refer to wearable robotic units that are controlled by specific computer boards in order to power a system of levers, motors, hydraulics and pneumatics to restore an initially existing effective locomotion.

History

Origin of powered exoskeletons can be dated back to the mid-20th century. In 1965, General Electric, an American multinational Company, began to develop Hardiman, an object that aimed at strengthening the user so as to easily lift heavy objects.

The first exoskeleton that could help people to easily stand and walk were developed at around 1968 and early 1970s at Mihajlo Pupin Institute in Serbia and the American University of Wisconsin-Madison respectively.

At the beginning of 21st century, the first powered exoskeleton for gait assistance were introduced in the market.

Since 2010, due to further researches, their numbers have been gradually increasing in the market. Today, their usage in athletic competitions is very common

Benefits

The main benefit of powered exoskeletons is to help people with spinal injuries. A Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) can emerge from varied happenings like accident and injuries. This can partially or totally paralyze their legs. By wearing them, such injured people will get an external power so as to be able to stand uprightly and walk for some distance.

Powered exoskeleton can also help in rehabilitating legs of those who suffer from stroke or age-related complications. Also, for those who suffer injuries (like soldiers or athletes), they can help them to easily and efficiently recover from injury.

Besides these primary benefits to people, some of its secondary benefits include improving the functioning of bowel or bladder.

In study by National Rehabilitation Information Center, they found that;

“patients who gained the ability to stand and walk with an exoskeleton often developed better endurance, improved their bowel and bladder control, and were less likely to develop urinary tract infections.”

Also, these exoskeletons helps in decreasing chronic pain, reducing spasticity and increasing the density of the bone marrow.

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