When people lose functional control of their arms due to neuromuscular conditions or injuries, the loss threatens their independence as well. We’ve written about various assistive technologies in the past. Kinova’s Jaco Assistive Robot attaches to a user’s powered wheelchair and serves as a working arm that can perform 16 different functions. Japanese researchers developed Fusion, a remote robotic arm system operate via a combination of a virtual reality headset and hand controllers or wristbands.

Saint Paul, Minnesota-based Abilitech Medical develops upper-limb assistive devices to help people with neuromuscular conditions or injuries. The company focuses on aiding users in functional activities at home, work, and community.

Abilitech’s Assist is a powered orthotic device that assists with elbow and shoulder flexion and extension. The Assist wearable device, which is available in a range of sizes, incorporates springs and motors at the shoulder and elbow to support the users’ muscles. Users need minimal intrinsic muscle strength in order to take advantage of many of the wearable’s functions. Software adjusts spring tension for various objects, but patients control their arm movements. The hybrid Assist system also can support up to 12 ounces without patient muscle contribution. Used in conjunction with a breathable body vest with integrated lumbar support, the device feels weightless to the user. Therefore, patients can use the Assist arm for extended periods.

Abilitech’s goal is to help restore physical independence, gain and maintain social and emotional connections, and decrease financial burdens by lessening the need for care attendants. The company recently won the top funding prize in the Minnesota Cup, a competitive startup competition. Abilitech won the contests Grand Prize and was the lead in the Woman-Owned category in the competition.