Powered Orthoses for Augmenting Upper Limb Functionally

Period of Performance: 08/22/2003 - 02/21/2004

$99.9K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

ADA Technologies, Inc.
8100 Shaffer Parkway Array
Littleton, CO 80127
Principal Investigator

Abstract

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, approximately 7.7 million people over the age of 15 report they are unable to lift or carry even 10 pounds with their arms because of neuromuscular impairments. Extensive research suggests that "powered orthoses" could provide great benefit to many of these individuals. Comprised essentially of an orthotic brace fitted with an actuator, control system, and battery, these appliances restore partial functionality to users' weakened upper limbs by augmenting force and motion at major joints (similar to power brakes and steering on a vehicle). Despite encouraging experimental results to date, this technology has not been successfully developed for wide-scale prescription by orthotists, primarily because it has not yet been translated into reliable components that can be understood and beneficially applied by clinicians. However, ADA believes that recent advances in materials, electronics, batteries, and actuators now make this commercial development practical once the remaining engineering challenges are overcome. Successfully addressing those challenges is the overall goal of this multi-phase SBIR project. The specific Phase I goal is to show that development of a practical, powered orthosis for the human elbow is feasible and that volunteer subjects derive benefit. In Phases II and III, the technology will be expanded and commercialized as "building block" orthoses for the hand, wrist, and shoulder. Most research to date has focused on assisting the severely disabled; however, many individuals have only a slight to moderate impairment and need only a simple assist to enjoy a markedly higher quality of life. Once they are available, orthotists will be able to use these flexible components - alone or in various combinations - to tailor highly customized yet affordable aids for each patient that match their degree of disability.