More and more research is showing that standing and walking can provide physical and psychological benefits for people with mobility limitations. Powered walking exoskeletons (powered orthotic frames that support and move a user’s body), have recently been developed to allow people with mobility limitations to stand and walk. Part of our research has focused on better understanding stakeholder perceptions of the benefits and limitations of these devices through a series of focus groups and an on-line survey with potential users and mobility specialists.
The Combined Mobility Base Orthosis (the CoMBO)
The COMBO is a new mobility concept that aims to provide users the benefits of standing and walking, while at the same time providing the best possible mobility for normal daily activities. The device includes a powered walking exoskeleton with additional mechanical features that allow it to attach to a wheeled frame. This allows the user several functionalities:
- When attached, the COMBO acts as a manual wheelchair with dynamic seating (i.e., it lets users position themselves anywhere between sitting and standing) to allow users to match their position to suit different activities.
- When fully upright, the COMBO functions as a standing wheelchair.
- When detached from the wheeled base, users can walk independently using the exoskeleton (using the wheeled frame as a walker if necessary).
The COMBO is still in the early prototype stage of development. We are currently gathering stakeholder feedback on this concept and other alternative mobility solutions
Minimization of Falls Risk
One of the barriers to the acceptance of using exoskeletons as a personal mobility device is safety. In fact, “minimization of falls risk” was identified as the most important factor in exoskeleton design in our recent survey (Wolff et al.).
As a result of these findings, we are collaborating with UBC researchers to better understand exoskeleton falls. Specifically, we are focusing on creating models to help us better understand techniques for fall prevention, mitigation, and recovery.
Work supported by
BCIT Prosthetics and Orthotics, Jarrod Tucker (Ortho Dynamics), Bill Miller (UBC Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy), Paula Rushton (UBC Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Machiel Van der Loos (UBC Mechanical Engineering), Mahsa Kalili (UBC Mechanical Engineering)