Robotics, along with Artificial intelligence, is already a helping hand that makes people run or walk in recuperation settings, but the activities were limited to single-action.
Exosuit after being used in Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA’s (an agency of United States Department of defence) former ‘Warrior Web’ Program, the researchers thought it could prove to be blessing for people suffering from Tetraplegic (A paralysis caused by illness or injury resulting in total or partial loss of uses of four limbs or torso.)
Exosuit is a mind-controlled robot suit that can make even a paralyzed person walk. It contains two implants that cover the parts of the brain that control movement and 64 electrodes from each implant read the brain activity. The instructions of movement are sending to the computer which reads the waves coming from the brain and convert them into instructions for the exoskeleton. When the user thinks ‘walk’, the Exosuit starts a chain of movements that move his legs forward. Isn’t it amazing?
A paralyzed man name Thibault, 28 in France started walking with the help of Exosuit. He fell 40 ft from the balcony which seriously injured his spinal cord leaving him paralyzed from the shoulders till down in hospital for 2 yrs.
The researchers started by asking Thibault to have several scans of brains so that they could track which areas are active when he thinks about walking or moving. He began the trial of the exoskeleton in 2017 first imagining walking and moving an avatar from a virtual character in the game similar to the classic Pong. The moment he reached the target in-game, the Exosuit would reach him. He covered the length of one and a half football pitches in total in many sessions. A 65 kg exoskeleton suit was then fastened with his body, and he was able to walk successfully. During this period, Thibault has gone several tests which started with simple mental tests and training the teams to understand his thoughts. He sent 45 days operating the exoskeleton and 95 training at home having a researcher by his side.
The two implants surgically placed on the surface of Thibault’s brain controls the suit. The results are mind-blowing. His brain and body work together to make him walk, even if briefly. After his first walk in 4 years, he said’ I feel like the first man on the moon. I hadn’t walked for two years. I had forgotten that I used to be taller than a lot of people in the room. It was very impressive”. He also said Exosuit has given him a new lease of life.
A good reason for suing Exosuit is it uses electrodes implanted above the brain’s outer membrane and not in the brain itself.
Researchers say it will significantly boost autonomy and quality of life for 20% of people having traumatic spinal cord injuries who end up Tetraplegic.
The brain-controlled exoskeleton is a new ray of hope for Tetraplegic patients willing to regain movement. It can help in improvising the patients’ quality of life and self-determination.