SBIR Phase I: Cooperative Overground Gait Rehabilitation

Period of Performance: 01/01/2013 - 12/31/2013


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Ekso Bionics
1414 Harbour Way South
Richmond, CA 94804
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project seeks to address the significant technical barriers associated with an untethered overground cooperative gait rehabilitation exoskeleton. Current gait rehabilitation techniques available to patients with gait abnormalities include conventional therapist based rehabilitation and more recently Body Weight Support Treadmill (BWST) robotic rehabilitation. The leading BWST devices employ a cooperative gait rehabilitation approach that varies the assistance to the user based on their ability. The conventional therapy approach is extremely labor intensive, but while the BWST therapy is the leading alternative it has shown mixed results. Researchers hypothesize that this is due to differences in the trained gait between BWST walking and overground walking. Mobile exoskeletons have emerged to better imitate overground walking, but to date no mobile device has implemented a cooperative control strategy, mainly due to the technical issues associated with its use. This SBIR intends to develop novel advances in cooperative rehabilitation control strategies along with innovative actuator designs to make possible the first mobile overground gait rehabilitation exoskeleton that implements a cooperative strategy. Specifically, it will address the major technical barriers to achieving this goal to increase the chances of successfully developing this technology in Phase II. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project could directly impact the lives of patients with impaired gaits from a variety of symptoms including post-stroke, incomplete spinal cord injury, and multiple sclerosis. It is estimated that nearly 2 million patients in the U.S. could currently benefit from improved gait rehabilitation therapy. This technology can be sold directly to rehabilitation hospitals through existing distribution channels. This technology will have a significant impact on the lives of patients undergoing gait rehabilitation. It will enable a new level of effectiveness by providing a novel cooperative rehabilitation approach on an overground device. Existing conventional therapy often causes patients to transition to therapist-assisted overground walking prematurely, resulting in a gap in the progression of care. This device addresses that gap by supporting a patient from acute therapy until they are strong enough for therapist-assisted overground walking. Finally, this device will expand our technical understanding of the limits and effectiveness of robotic gait rehabilitation. The device will serve as a platform to develop the next generation of even more effective robotic rehabilitation control strategies, both for the investigators and the greater research community.