Powered joint braces to help the mobility-impaired
An active brace
Ten million of the 21 million Americans with disabilities have difficulty lifting a light object or need help with activities of daily living. Twenty percent of the $200 billion that the disabled spend on physical therapy is paid for out of pocket. These statistics point to a need for affordable devices that both augment strength and hasten rehabilitation. This project aimed to create an active joint brace: a wearable, unencumbering exoskeleton that augments physical capability by working in tandem with existing musculature. It allows people who have suffered from neurological trauma — due to spinal cord injury or stroke, for instance — to rebuild strength, rehabilitate, and gain independence. Funds from a prior Deshpande Center Ignition Grant helped create a working prototype that has shown initial promise in enabling quadriplegics to move their arms and is currently engaged in an outpatient clinical study with stroke patients. Existing technology that has dominated the robotic rehabilitation market — complex, expensive and unreliable — targets only a few customers. The joint brace, on the other hand, is cost-effective, easily controlled by the user and could afford self-driven therapy for a large patient population.
The technology from this project was spun out into a startup company, Myomo, Inc.