SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KSTU) — The E-Bike of exoskeletons is making great strides at the University of Utah’s Bionic Engineering Lab.
It’s an understatement to say that Stan Schaar is excited about the breakthrough technology.
“There are tons of people like me that just need a little more muscle, when you lose your leg people don’t realize you lose a lot of muscle,” said Schaar.
Schaar lost his leg in an accident almost six years ago while helping his neighbor. He’s one of half a dozen lower limb amputees that have helped to test out the experimental exoskeleton at the university.
“Pushes me along like a big wind behind me, it helps me walk, gives me the ability to do almost what I was doing before I lost my leg,” said Schaar.
He says with the exoskeleton, he can walk farther with less pain.
The device is extremely lightweight, using carbon fiber material. The exoskeleton’s AI system understands how a person moves and assists in that movement, making it feel natural.
Director of the Bionic Engineering Lab Tammaso Lenzi said the exoskeleton wraps around the user’s waist and leg.
“After amputation walking because much harder. The reason it’s so hard is even the best prosthesis cannot replicate the function of the biological leg,” said Lenzi.
It uses battery-powered electric motors to help the person walk with much less effort.
“The exoskeleton always synchronizes with your movement, it stops if you stop, it walks with you if you walk, the user is always in control of their gait,” said Lenzi.
Now the challenge is getting this to market. That could come in a few years, according to Lenzi. He says the next immediate step is to finalize a licensing agreement which they hope to have by the end of this year.
Schaar says he can’t wait until he can use it every day.
“I feel like it needs a shot in the arm to get it out there, on the market, get it available for people like me that just need a little more so their life is more meaningful and they have a fuller life,” said Schaar.
A $985,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense funded the development of the new technology to benefit veterans.
Earlier this year, Lenzi received a $584,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.