Tuesday, May 17

Exoskeleton: Wandercraft prepares the first personal model for people with reduced mobility

Offer even more autonomy to people with reduced mobility. This is the leitmotif that animates the French company Wandercraft, which announces this Thursday, January 20, that it has raised 40 million euros to finance the first self-balancing personal exoskeleton.

Created in 2012, this company is not, however, in its infancy in this field, since it has been marketing the Atalante since 2019 (video below), a model used in particular by the AP-HP with patients in rehabilitation but also disabled people and American hospitals.

“With this new fundraising, we will move from a version that is evolving in the medical environment to personal use, with a first prototype that we hope to be able to test in real conditions by the end of 2022. Our challenge is to create an exoskeleton providing more agility, movement capabilities, completely autonomous and above all stable”, comments for CNEWS Jean-Louis Constanza, co-founder of Wandercraft.

This pioneering company in research on exoskeletons does not imagine replacing wheelchairs but wishes to complement and offer more autonomy in a world designed for bipedal men. Because being able to stand up opens the field of possibilities for the people concerned.

“Our current job is to understand a person’s life path. Like a car that must be able to take all types of roads to take you to your destination, an exoskeleton must fully fulfill its function. And technological development is already advanced, with an AI that will be further improved. We demonstrated with the current Atalante exo that we could do just about anything in a home for an equipped paraplegic person. Above all, we need to build a model that adapts to the exterior. For example, we work on stability in an environment that is difficult to predict (the ground having imperfections, slopes, etc.), with an adaptive balance system,” explains Jean-Louis Constanza.

The relationship between the person and their exoskeleton must be intuitiveJean-Louis Constanza, co-founder of Wandercraft

And to continue: “You also have to be able to go to some essential places, such as being able to take public transport or even get into a car alone or take a taxi. We are also working on the question of normal sanitary facilities which are not suitable for life and which we will have to be able to use. Take a step, climb a sidewalk, go through the door of a store… The exoskeleton must be able to walk at urban speed at 0.6 meters per second, to cross the street for a traffic light for pedestrians in particular. Above all, the relationship between the person and their exo must also be intuitive, with gestures like leaning forward to get up… You don’t need a mental load to command it either. It has to be discreet, elegant and usable. Finally, it has to be beautiful, because we owe that to people with disabilities”.

And to accompany a disabled person throughout their day, Wandercraft relies on a full day’s autonomy and offering the equivalent of an hour’s walk on average, knowing that “few people walk for more than an hour per day,” he says.

New breakthroughs in rehabilitation

Currently, Atalante exoskeletons are the subject of medical research and could well change the rehabilitation phase after a serious accident, for example. “If the patient needs to regain some life, he must also be able to treat himself. There are pathologies that develop when a person is seated because the human body is not made for that, sedentary patients developing in particular cardiovascular problems and muscular deficiencies in particular”, he adds.

“Several organizations such as the AP-HP and other hospitals in the United States are conducting research with our exoskeleton to improve their practices. If in-depth studies are still needed on the question, we know that after a stroke or an accident, the plasticity of the brain to control the muscles is three months before rehabilitation becomes more complicated to walk again. With Atalante, people are assisted to walk a few days after the accident, which is an asset because after this three-month period it is complicated. We therefore provide a complementary tool for physiotherapists who can implement their knowledge differently. We can therefore imagine new breakthroughs in rehabilitation,” concludes Jean-Louis Constanza.


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