London: Dutch engineers have developed exoskeleton ‘robotic legs,’ to help improve the movement of stroke patients.
The prototype device, called the Lower-extremity Powered ExoSkeleton, or LOPES, works by training the body and mind of a patient to recover a more natural step.
The machine, created by engineers at the University of Twente in Enschede in the Netherlands over several years, is also being tested on spinal injury patients who have recovered some restricted movement in their legs.
Designed for the rehabilitation clinic, it is not a mobile device but supports the patient as they walk on a treadmill.
It can do all the walking for the patient, or it can offer targeted support in either one leg or with one element of the walking process. The machine can also detect what the patient is doing wrong.
“For instance, some people cannot lift their foot up appropriately. What this device does is it senses that the foot is not lifting properly,” the BBC quoted Dr Edwin van Asseldonk, who is working on the project, as saying.
“It then compares it with a reference pattern and then exerts a force or torque to assist that subject in doing it,” he explained.
Dr van Assledonk believes that by physically showing patients how to walk properly, the machine can help them develop the brain signals required to drive improved movement.
It is hoped a commercial version could be made available to rehabilitation centres around the world as early as next year.