14 February 2017
Modular exosuit helps paraplegic artist to walk again. Jim Drury reports. Ten years ago Silke Pan was a circus acrobat, at the top of her profession. But a trapeze fall left her a paraplegic. Now she's walking again, thanks to this prototype exoskeleton, known as TWIICE.
SILKE PAN, PARAPLEGIC, FORMER PROFESSIONAL CIRCUS ACROBAT: "The first time that I stood up with the exoskeleton was really emotional for me. It was as if I were in a dream."
Made by roboticists at Switzerland's EPFL, it weighs just 14 kilograms. Two electric motors on each leg allow flexion and extension of hip and knee joints. Battery powered, it allows users to walk, turn, and climb steps, by pressing buttons on their crutch handles. A full charge lasts three hours.
TRISTAN VOUGA, EPFL MECHANICAL ENGINEER: "We can create any shape we want, but it's much more high-performance. It's very lightweight, but also very very strong. So it's made with composite materials but we can create any shape that we want very quickly and without the need of expensive tooling or expensive investment at the front end."
A modular system, the exosuit could be adapted to different body shapes and pathologies.
Having the ability to stand should help the disabled feel parity with the able-bodied, say researchers.