Italian exoskeleton helps disabled users stand and walk

Twin Italian Lower-body Exoskeleton
The Twin robotic exoskeleton offers newfound mobility and therapy support, enabling those with leg impairments to walk and stand independently. Images courtesy Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia

In a significant advancement for assistive technologies, a new Italian-designed exoskeleton named Twin has been introduced to aid individuals with disabilities in walking and standing. Unveiled during a press conference at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan, Twin represents a promising development in rehabilitative therapy and mobility support for people who have lost the use of their legs.

Developed collaboratively by the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology) and the Istituto Nazionale Assicurazione Infortuni sul Lavoro (National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work), Twin is currently in its prototype phase. This lower-body exoskeleton is engineered to assist patients with reduced or nonexistent motor ability in their lower extremities by moving their legs using motors located at the knee and hip joints. These motors are powered by an onboard battery, capable of running the exoskeleton for approximately four hours on a single one-hour charge.

Twin’s functionality is encapsulated within three distinct operational modes, catering to various degrees of mobility challenges. The Walk mode is designed for individuals who cannot use their legs at all, enabling them to move their legs, sit down, and stand up with the assistance of the exoskeleton. However, users in this mode are required to use crutches for balance, similar to other assistive exoskeletons like those produced by ReWalk.

For patients retaining some lower-limb motor function, the Retrain mode offers a balance between autonomy and support. It permits users to walk independently to the best of their ability while providing adjustable assistance as needed, guiding them towards an optimal leg-movement trajectory. This mode is particularly beneficial for rehabilitation purposes, as it actively supports the recovery process.

Twin Italian Lower-body Exoskeleton Adjustment
Adjustable foot and ankle supports, alongside telescopic links near the femur and tibia, ensure the exoskeleton fits various body sizes.

The TwinCare mode is specifically designed for individuals who have full use of one leg but not the other. In this mode, the exoskeleton enhances the movement of the affected leg to synchronize with the healthy leg, facilitating a more natural walking pattern. Users or physiotherapists can adjust gait parameters such as stride length, type, and walking speed through a wirelessly linked Android tablet, offering customizable support based on individual needs.

A notable aspect of Twin is its construction from lightweight materials, such as aluminum alloy, which contrasts with the traditional steel used in similar devices. This not only reduces the overall weight but also enhances user comfort and mobility. Furthermore, its modular design allows for easy transport and upgrading of components, setting Twin apart from its counterparts in terms of versatility and adaptability.

The development of Twin began in late 2013, with the team aiming for the exoskeleton to enter production soon. While pricing information is not yet available, the introduction of Twin into the market could significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with mobility impairments, offering a new level of independence and support in their daily activities.

Source: Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia