Acquisition of a Self-Balancing Powered Exoskeleton for Mobility and Physical Rehabilitation

Project: Research project

Project Details


PROJECT SUMMARY/ABSTRACT There is a strong need at NJIT and its research and clinical collaborators to develop a deeper understanding of human-robot interaction during exoskeletal-assisted locomotion (EAL). To address this need, the proposal requests funding to acquire a self-balancing, hands-free lower extremity exoskeleton and test the efficacy of this device to promote functional independence in people with neurological disorders. The long-term goal of this work is to enable robotic exoskeletons to integrate seamlessly for in-home and community use, restoring mobility and quality of life of individuals with neurological disorders on par with their able-bodied peers. Although robotic exoskeletons have tremendous potential, current devices fall short of safely restoring mobility in individuals with neurological disorders. This is in large part because robotic exoskeletons for rehabilitation are relatively new, with commercial devices receiving Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvals in the past seven years (ReWalk in 2014, Indego and Ekso in 2016). The growing demand for robotic exoskeletons has exposed two critical barriers to safe and sustained use: 1) the bounds of human-robot performance during EAL are not well-understood because empirical data under controlled laboratory settings do not exist or are not available to the research community; and 2) it is difficult and prohibitively expensive to conduct the necessary experiments to characterize systematically human-robot performance during EAL. In addition, all three FDA-approved devices currently used in the United States require hand-held crutches or a walker. This excludes a subset of population with neurological disorders who do not have adequate control or strength in their arms. The crutches/walker also limit the intensity and range of activities a user can engage in while in the robotic exoskeleton, limiting the utility of such assistive devices to regain functional independence and quality of life. The acquisition of the self-balancing, hands-free exoskeleton would greatly strengthen on-going research funded by the NIH and other federal agencies. These interdisciplinary research projects span a large range, including controlled experiments in laboratory settings to acquire fundamental knowledge about human-robot interaction in exoskeletons, developing subject-specific virtual simulators of EAL, understanding the efficacy of EAL to improve gait characteristics and functional independence in patient populations, and developing virtual reality platforms for training vulnerable populations in exoskeleton use. Collectively, these projects will provide the much-needed empirical data and technology developments to accelerate integration of robotic exoskeletons for in-home and community use.
Effective start/end date8/1/227/31/23


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