French Researchers reported that the mind-reading exoskeleton enabled a paralyzed man to move. Although the movement was not perfect, however, researchers say that this is a great approach to improve patients’ quality of life. The robotic suit is currently being used only in the lab.
Thibault (a generic, personal name for French) is a 30-years old optician in the profession. Unfortunately, he fell from 15 meters at a night club in 2015.
After this incident, he became quadriplegic (paralyzed from all limbs). The incident had caused an injury to his spinal cord. He spent the next two years of his life in the hospital.
The mechanism behind the working of the robotic exoskeleton
Thibault underwent a surgery in which the doctors placed two implants on his brain’s surface. These implants covered the brain parts that control bodily movement.
There are 64 electrodes in each implant. They read brain activity and waves. After that, they beam all the instructions from brain waves to a nearby computer.
The computer software reads brainwaves to turn them into commands for controlling the exoskeleton.
At first, he practiced controlling the visual characters through his mind in a computer game. Later on, he began to practice walking in the robotic suit.
Thibault was strapped in the exoskeleton to walk with the support of ceiling-bound harness for better balance. Later, he was able to move his hands in a three-dimensional space.
Thibault shared his experience that in the beginning, he felt like the first man on the Moon. He forgot even about how to stand and that he was taller than many people in the experiment room.
It was difficult for him to learn how to control the exoskeleton. It involves a combination of different muscles and related movements. According to him, it was the most impressive thing about the robotic exoskeleton.
A significant step towards advancement in motility
The exoskeleton weighs about 65 kg. This sophisticated robotic structure does not restore movements completely. However, it marks a significant step in the approaches that enable people to control their limbs with their thoughts.
The robotic assembly cannot be used outside the laboratory. However, Thibault showed success in 71% of the tasks performed to evaluate the exoskeleton with the help of specific targets. These targets included the movements of upper and lower arms and the wrist rotation.
Dr. Alim Louis Benabid said that we have successfully solved this problem. The principle is correct. This proves that it is possible to extend the movements of people in the robotic exoskeleton.
French scientists are working to refine the technology. They have the work plans to develop finger control. It will help Thibault in picking and moving the objects.
Dr. Benabid also added that our job is to help the injured people who have lost their bodily functions.
Prof. Tom Shakespeare, however, found this advanced concept of motility far away from the usual clinical possibilities. He said that only 15% people with any disability have wheelchair or other assistive devices. He added that hi-tech options are never available to most people suffering from spinal cord injury.
The exoskeleton details and features are described and published in the journal The Lancet Neurology.