Introduction: Why Have I Developed This Website?
I believe that exoskeletons are among the most significant medical breakthroughs in my lifetime. What we are witnessing today in the medical world may be compared to the discovery of penicillin, the development of X-Ray machines and the advent of transplant surgery.
Roughly 1% of the world's population relies on wheelchairs for mobility. With the aging of the population this number is skyrocketing. This means approximately 3 million Americans, 5 million Europeans, a total of roughly 10 million citizens from developed countries and 60 million people worldwide rely on wheelchairs. While the wheelchair has dramatically improved in quality over the past decades, the options for people with mobility disorders have been limited. All of that is about to change.
Four exoskeleton manufacturers, from three different continents, are rushing products to the market. Many wheelchair users will soon have the opportunity to walk for the first time years. Walking is significant not only for the obvious improvement in quality of life, but also in the improvement in the health of people with mobility disorders. Humans were not designed to sit for hours on end. The result of constant sitting is pressure sores, atrophied leg muscles and brittle bones. But the impact of wheelchair use is not just due to the sitting, for example, wheelchair users also pay a price just for pushing their wheelchairs. Wheelchair users are at elevated risk for carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive strain injury from the constant impact of the hands against the pushrims of the wheels. While wheelchairs offer people with mobility disorders freedom, it is not without its costs. Exoskeletons will, at last, offer wheelchair users an alternative mobility option.
To be sure, the first generation of exoskeletons will not be ideal. These exoskeletons are slow and bulky. The first exoskeletons will also be extremely expensive and priced too high for most wheelchair users to enjoy. But it will not be long until progress is made and second, third and fourth generation exoskeletons are developed which will be lighter, faster and less expensive.
The goal of this website is to be a source of unbiased information for the disability community, the media and society in general about exoskeletons for wheelchair users.
Please note that I have intentionally excluded some manufacturers for the time being. For example:
* A spokesperson from Raytheon has communicated to me that their Sarcos exoskeleton is being developed only for military use and that there are no current plans for development for disability purposes.
* Marty Reed from Lifesuit communicated to me that he has no plans for a near term marketable protoype. Should that change, I will add the Lifesuit to the website.
I would appreciate any feedback or comments about how to improve this website.
Dr. Gene Emmer
RehaDesign "AT" Gmail "DOT" com