symbio

GAIT REHABILITATION EXOTRAINER

STRATEGIC INNOVATION THROUGH FUTURE STUDIES

symbio is an intelligent symbiotic exoskeleton that can prevent falls by providing the right amount of rotational force, in the right place, at the right time.

A calm and welcoming, yet strong and athletic design aesthetic exudes confidence to the wearer.

Hip to Thigh

Knee to Calf

Achilles to Foot

Core to Hip

Symbiosis between man and machine.

THE FUTURE OF ROBOTICS

Physical Therapy and Walking Rehabilitation

Physical therapy is the perfect place for symbiosis between man and machine. It would allow humans to do things that were impossible before, like helping a paraplegic walk.

Future of Robotics Beyond Manufacturing

Today, robots mainly do undesirable or repetitive tasks for us — the things we hate doing. But seeing how quickly the technologies are advancing, the future is a more symbiotic relationship between man and machine.

210K
795K
30M

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

Strokes

Falls

Millions
in Need

About 1 in 4 adults age 65+ report falling each year, resulting in 30M falls each year.

 

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. This equates to more than 795K people every year. Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability and drastically reduces mobility in more than 50% of stroke survivors age 65+.​

Today, 210K people are suffering from incomplete spinal cord injuries, 70% of which were caused by things that can easily happen to any of us like motor vehicle accidents and falls. The median age at injury is just 35.
 

USE CASES

Bulky. Rigid. Intimidating

There are several exoskeletons and wearable robots in the market. However, they are all bulky, rigid and intimidating. Therefore, the movements during rehabilitation exercises differ tremendously from a natural gait and limit recovery. Instead of learning how to walk again, patients feel like puppets being remote controlled by a machine

THE COMPETITION

Over $60 Billion

Spent on Falls

In the healthcare industry, cutting costs and improving health outcomes are of utmost importance. To keep costs down, CMS is incentivized to minimize the amount of walking rehabilitation sessions per patient while also ensuring that the patients recover well enough that they do not incur considerable follow-on costs from complications.

The rehab sessions that are prescribed are limited in number. Some are as short as 30 minutes. PTs often feel as if they are guessing when deciding which equipment and what exercises to use. Not to mention, there is a high risk of injury to the PT during training.

THE PROBLEM

Inspired by the

Human Body

symbio is a hybrid of both soft and hard components, mirroring the body's muscle and tissue. Its lighter and more fluid construction provides a more comfortable experience during the strenuous training. 

symbio

Construction

symbio achieves more natural movement than the competition, specifically by allowing for movement in the core and by removing the linkages between the major limbs in the lower body. This is achieved through the use of robotic hip ball joints, a motor positioned at the core, and a uniquely designed mounting system for the joint motors and assistive limbs.

 

Kevlar mounting registration points, where the carbon fiber limbs attach to, are hardened than bonded and industrially sewn directly onto high density foam plates located within the soft fabric of the leg wraps. This layered construction provides comfortability on the inside while still providing the needed rigidity to allow for the rotational torque of the assistive motors.

Research scan, STEEP trend analysis

Future horizon mapping & implication wheels

Predicting scenarios & quick ideation

Future Casting & Strategic Design

The Process

Design

Kevlar mounting plate prototype

Back cushioning for waist wrap

Leg wrap prototype

Waist wrap prototype

Expert Interviews

Sheryl Flynn, PT, Ph.D

CEO of Blue Marble Health

“We should all have periodic sessions with physical therapists not just those in rehab.”

Optimizing rehab sessions is critical. The rehab sessions that are prescribed are limited in number. On top of that, there’s typically no follow-up sessions because payors don’t want to pay for them. Private hospitals aren’t really incentivized to properly rehab fall patients. They get more revenue when they don’t. 

Brian Dinozo, OT

Occupational therapist at John Muir Health

“The older a fall patient is the higher their morbidity rate because they find themselves in bed the whole time after. That’s why regaining any level of mobility is critical to a person’s life.”

Physical therapists and occupational therapists are the health professionals who hold the most decision making power when it comes to prescribing and overseeing physical therapy and what mobility aids a patient will be prescribed. Physicians just have the ability to order in assessment by a PT and/or OT

Elisa Lo, PT

Physical therapist at the CA Rehab Institute

“If they walked before, I expect them to walk again.”

An assistive device like an exoskeleton with fall prevention technology would be most beneficial in the near term for those who have suffered from incomplete spinal cord injuries, strokes, and traumatic falls.

Softgoods Prototyping

Inventing symbio's Layered Construction

By sewing physical prototypes I gain an understanding how the layering of patterns and different materials with varying weights and stretchiness affects comfortability and strength. This process helped me conclude that my multi-layered soft exoskeleton design would need more strength in the leg wraps, specifically at the mounting areas. As a result, I purchased high density foam to strengthen the structure.

 

I also discovered I needed to solve how I would be attaching the soft part of my exoskeleton (i.e. the fabric) to the more rigid parts (i.e. the carbon fiber limbs and metal motors and mounts). This led me to my design concept of a localized mounting system utilizing kevlar. Kevlar, unlike carbon fiber, is non-irritating and therefore can be hardened to carbon fiber strength while leaving the edges as raw fabric. After hardening the kevlar, I used an industrial sewing machine and kevlar threading to stitch the raw edges of the kevlar directly onto neoprene, which I strengthened with high density foam.

 

A qualitative assessment of my rough prototype wrapped around people’s legs influenced me to believe that, barring quantitative engineering testing, my newly designed mounting structure would sufficiently transfer and withstand the rotational force of the motors during operation.

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