Exoskeleton development is speeding along on many fronts. We have written about Ekso Bionics lower extremity rigid exoskeleton for rehabilitation and paraplegic mobility . We also covered Cyberdyne’s HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) for Medical Use Lower Body, used in Japan for progressive diseases in and in Europe more often for spinal injuries.
Tim Swift, who has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley, was one the three Ekso inventors. Ekso Bionic’s product amazed people when they tried it out, but for most potential users, according to Swift, that was it. They stopped at the trial because Esko was heavy and costly. Swift subsequently left Ekso and joined Otherlab, a San Francisco-based group that enables technology development by attracting funding. In Swift’s case, the focus was on inventing a new type of exoskeletal robotic platform that was lightweight and less costly than existing technologies.
The result is Roam, mission-driven to create exoskeletons that can be used by a wide range and large numbers of people. Target applications include elderly stand assistance, mobility assistance, industrial lift assistance, and for military applications, super-soldier capability to carry heavy weight long distances quickly. Roam’s design strategies use high-strength fabric and air power to keep weight down without sacrificing performance. Rather than designing with high-tolerance parts, Roam favors mass manufacturing processes such as sewing and molding. According to Swift the Roam design has an extremely high power to weight ratio for high performance levels.