Topics: Technology & Advancements, Research, Paralysis

Mobility Once More: How Hyundai’s Exoskeleton is Helping Paraplegics Walk Again

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Hyundai is known for their dependable construction of vehicles for traveling on the road, but they are now getting special attention for the technology they are developing for paraplegics. Scientists have been working hard for centuries to come up with a cure for paralysis, and there have been somewhat promising developments in recent years.

However, Hyundai has come up with a mechanism that assists those who have lost the ability to control their limbs and it seems to be a welcome alternative for now. The first invention they made is called the Hyundai Medical Exoskeleton, H-Mex for short. Hyundai researchers say, “although autonomous cars hold the promise of giving back some freedom to people who can’t drive, they’re not much use if an aging global population can’t get to the curb first. A robotic suit could help, and there’s overlap in the sensors and software, both are needed to operate safely.”

Pop culture is referring to this type of technology as an "Iron Man suit" and Hyundai is not falling short of the expectations implied by this label with their 3 newest versions of the mechanism.

Hyundai’s Exoskeleton Trio

The HUMA (Hyundai Universal Medical Assist) is the most advanced suit so far. It mechanically assists every limb by giving the weak muscles the support they need in order to move. The HUMA can assist up to 88 pounds of a person’s weight and help them to lift even heavier objects. Because of this, Hyundai has pointed out that the device may be of some assistance to the military, providing the possibility of “superhuman strength”.

The other 2 newest suits by Hyundai are made for more specific regions of the body. The H-Mex (Hyundai Medical Exoskeleton) is specifically geared to help those with lower-spinal-cord injuries. It provides the individual with the ability to stand, walk, climb stairs, and sit. The H-Wex (Hyundai Waist Exoskeleton) also helps to assist the lower region of the body, providing support for the waste to enable bending over and the lifting of objects.

These exoskeletons have adjustable lengths and are powered by battery. The joints are said to “coordinate their movements with those of the user via a vast sensor array that tries to predict a user’s motion in real time.”

How to Use The H-Mex

Walking with the H-Mex basically goes as follows:

  1. Lean forward
  2. Extend the right (or left) cane forward
  3. Press the front button on the right (or left) cane and then left (or right) foot will take a step
  4. Extend the left (or right) cane forward
  5. Press the button on the left (or right) cane and the right (or left) foot will take a step
  6. Repeat

The maximum possible speed is 1.6 miles per hour, but that does not detract from the fact that it is providing the option of allowing someone who is paraplegic mobility where they once had none.

Who Can Use It

The design of the exoskeletons are currently limited to those who are 64-71 inches tall, which is the average height of most individuals. Adjustments and the option to created a customized version are optional, however the placement of the buttons on the canes makes the adjustment option a bit dysfunctional. The engineers are still working on a solution for this issue.

There is currently no price for the Hyundai exoskeletons and they still need at least another year before test trials can begin, but that is not too long off and it is very exciting to see what developments have been made over time. At the end of 2017 we should have a better gauge on how functional these mechanisms can really be and just how much one of them will actually cost.

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Spinal Cord Team

Written by Spinal Cord Team

SpinalCord.com has been created as a resource for patients of spinal cord injuries and their families. Find everything you need to learn more about your injury, locate a doctor or treatment center, or discover financial relief to support you through this difficult time.

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