A prosthesis or prosthetic implant is a robotic device that restores the normal functions of a body part, lost through trauma, disease, or a condition present at birth. Prosthetics are controlled by neural activity in the brain to restore motor function to where it feels entirely natural.
Different types of prosthetic limbs are available for different goals in mind. Often these goals depend on the site of the amputation and the needs of the patient. For instance, a cosmetic prosthetic limb, called a cosmesis, is designed with appearance in mind rather than controllability.
A prosthetic limb works with an array of electrodes that pick up small electrical signals from the brain as the patient thinks about moving their arm and direct the robotic arm to move accordingly.
This post will look at the top 14 startups around the globe, building robotic prosthetics and exoskeletons.
Cyberdyne is a Japanese robotics company, noted for the HAL robotic exoskeleton suit, which increases body movement and strength by up to ten times. It is designed to benefit people in the field of medicine, caregiving, welfare, labor, heavy works, entertainment and so on. HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) is the world‘s first cyborg-type robot that assists a physically challenged person to move and exert bigger motor energy. It is also a system that accelerates a motor learning of cerebral nerves.
DEKA is a New Hampshire based company that builds “Luke,” a robotic arm prosthesis designed to restore body functionality for individuals with upper extremity amputations. After the replanted nerves are innervated on the chest muscles, the amputated or paralyzed patient will have to think about the arm and hand movements. The result is a contracted muscle that will move according to what the individual is thinking of.
Exii is a Japanese startup that builds affordable, stylish, and highly functional electronic prosthetic arms. The sensors, strapped around a wearer’s arm, detect muscle signals, and five artificial fingers, linked to a built-in motor, automatically change finger angles according to the degree of muscle expansion and contraction.
4. Ekso Bionics
Ekso Bionics is a leading developer of wearable exoskeletons that amplify human potential such as human mobility, strength, and endurance for military, civilian and medical uses. It offers technologies that range from helping those with paralysis to stand up and walk.
This California company released its latest neurorehabilitation suit named EksoNR, designed to help people from a stroke. The device recreates the natural leg movements and helps patients re-learn to walk, sit, and do everything they used to do.
5. FREE Bionics
FREE Bionics is a Taiwanese company that built Free Walk, a robot exoskeleton that can enable for spinal injury patients to walk again. It is a spin-out from the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), a leading institute on developing new technology in Taiwan.
6. Mobius Bionics
Mobius Bionics is a medical device company focusing on bringing advanced prosthetic technologies, such as the LUKE arm. Developed by DEKA research and development for upper-limb, shoulder-level amputations, the LUKE arm is a robotic prosthetic arm that allows a range of motions to lift things in daily life. The arm comes with a hand with four independent motors and a conforming grip to hold delicate items.
7. Marsi Bionics
Marsi Bionics is a startup, spun off from CAR (the Centre for Automation and Robotics), which is a joint center between the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Technical University of Madrid (UPM).
After more than 20 years of research on robot locomotion, the company is now bringing its results with new products for locomotion and gait rehabilitation. They include modular gait exoskeletons (ranging from single joint active orthoses to full Trunk-Hip-Knee-Ankle-Foot active orthoses), and the first wearable pediatric gait exoskeleton, ATLAS 2020.
8. Open Bionics
Open Bionics is a prosthetics company developing affordable, 3D printed bionic devices for amputees. The Hero Arm is Open Bionics’ first commercially available bionic limb, custom-built for upper limb amputees as young as nine. A lightweight myoelectric prosthesis, the Hero Arm is the world’s first clinically approved 3D-printed bionic arm, with multi-grip functionality.
Pedasys is an Iranian company that designs and manufactures power-assisted robots and rehabilitation systems for disabled patients, older people. It has built a lower-limb robotic exoskeleton named “Exoped” as a walking aid of paraplegic patients. Exoped has two versions: Clinical and Personal versions. Currently, Exoped clinical version has passed various standard medical tests to get needed certificates and soon will be available in rehabilitation clinics.
10. Roam Robotics
Roam Robotics is a San Francisco based company that builds light and affordable robotic exoskeletons and orthoses that enhance the strength, speed, and endurance. Its first product “Elevate Robotic Ski Xo” is designed to support skiers’ knees, boost quad strength, and help them stay on the slopes longer.
11. ReWalk Robotics
A medical device company, ReWalk Robotics builds wearable robotic exoskeleton for wheelchair-bound people with lower limb disabilities due to spinal cord injury or stroke.
The company offers two products, namely ReWalk Personal and ReWalk Rehabilitation wearable robotic systems. A custom-fit for each user, the Rewalk Personal System is for everyday use by individuals at home and in their communities. The ReWalk Rehabilitation system is for clinical rehabilitation centers. ReWalk is the only exoskeleton with FDA clearance via clinical studies and extensive performance testing for personal use.
suitX develops robotic exoskeletons for the industrial, medical, and military markets. It offers two products — Phoenix and MAX (Modular Agile Exoskeleton). Phoenix is an advanced medical exoskeleton designed to help people with mobility disorders to be upright and mobile. MAX (Modular Agile Exoskeleton) is intended to assist the body for a wide range of industrial tasks, reducing muscle stress and increasing productivity. It uses several modules that can be either combined or used independently; the Trunk Support Exoskeleton (TSE), the Leg Support Exoskeleton (LSE), and the Arm Support Exoskeleton (ASE).
13. Touch Bionics
Livingston-based Touch Bionics is a world leader in upper limb prosthetic technologies and the first to develop an electric prosthetic hand with five independently-powered fingers. Spun out of the NHS in Scotland, the company builds prosthetic hands capable of being controlled via a mobile app. Its i-limb quantum is an upper limb prosthesis that can change grips with a simple gesture.
A spin-off from the Maastricht UMC+, Xilloc from the Netherlands provides patient-specific implants to reconstruct parts of the human skeleton. They use 3D printers and CNC milling machines to build patient-specific products such as PEEK, titanium implants, polyamide surgical guides, and anatomical models to help the patients.