Car company Hyundai is making its way into healthcare with robotic, wearable exoskeletons that it says can give paraplegics newfound mobility.
"Sometimes getting from point A to point B involves doing something that most of us take for granted," said Mike O'Brien, Vice President of Hyundai Motor America at a CES 2017 tech trade show press event in Las Vegas. "It might be as simple as getting out of a chair, climbing stairs or moving heavy objects across a room." But in fact, more than 30 million Americans have difficulty walking or climbing stairs, O'Brien said.
Hyundai announced three different exoskeletons, each with its own specialty. The HUMA, or the Hyundai Universal Mobility Assist, would be especially helpful for the elderly and others with limited muscular strength, O'Brien explained.
The H-WEX, or Hyundai Waist Exoskeleton, would help people like warehouse workers lift heavy objects. And the H-MEX, or Hyundai Medical Exoskeleton would help people with lower spinal cord injuries walk again. The latter can move with the wearer and help him or her sit, stand, walk and climb stairs, O'Brien explained.
Hyundai has said that its exoskeletons can help members of the military run more than 7 mph and carry 100 pounds across long distances; the exoskeletons also allow factory workers to lift up to eight times as much weight as they normally would.
While it's unclear when these exoskeletons will be available commercially, the company expects to make them widely available at affordable prices.