EPFL

TWIICE One Exoskeleton furthers the promise of robotic mobility aids

Posted by | EPFL, exoskeleton, Gadgets, hardware, robotics, Wearables | No Comments

Few things in the world of technology can really ever be said to be “done,” and certainly exoskeletons are not among their number. They exist, but they are all works in progress, expensive, heavy, and limited. So it’s great to see this team working continuously on their TWIICE robotic wearable, improving it immensely with the guidance of motivated users.

TWIICE made its debut in 2016, and like all exoskeletons it was more promise made than promise kept. It’s a lower-half exoskeleton that supports and moves the legs of someone with limited mobility, while they support themselves on crutches. It’s far from ideal, and the rigidity and weight of systems like this make them too risky to deploy at scale for now.

But two years of refinement have made a world of difference. The exoskeleton weighs the same (which doesn’t matter since it carries its own weight), but supports heavier users while imparting more force with its motors, which have been integrated into the body itself to make it far less bulky.

Perhaps most importantly, however, the whole apparatus can now be donned and activated by the user all by herself, as Swiss former acrobat and now handcycling champion Silke Pan demonstrated in a video. She levers herself from her wheelchair into the sitting exoskeleton, attaches the fasteners on her legs and trunk, then activates the device and stands right up.

She then proceeds to climb more stairs than I’d rather attempt. She is an athlete, after all.

That kind of independence is often crucially important for the physically disabled for a multitude of reasons, and clearly achieving the capability has been a focus for the TWIICE team.

Although the exoskeleton has been worked on as a research project within the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), the plan is to spin off a startup to commercialize the tech as it approaches viability. The more they make and the more people use these devices — despite their limitations — the better future versions will be.

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BlindPAD’s tablet makes visual information tactile for the vision-impaired

Posted by | accessibility, Disabilities, EPFL, Gadgets, haptics, science, TC | No Comments

 It’s truly amazing, the wealth of information we all have at our fingertips — that is, of course, unless your fingertips are how you have to access that information. An innovative new tablet that uses magnetically configurable bumps may prove to be a powerful tool for translating information like maps and other imagery to a modality more easily accessed by the visually impaired. Read More

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Swiss system ups security and reliability of finger-based biometrics

Posted by | biometrics, EPFL, Gadgets, science, Security, TC | No Comments

 Biometrics may not be the perfect solution for security, but they can be useful — as long as they’re robust and well thought out. TouchID is all well and good, but you wouldn’t secure a nuclear site with it. Well, movies aside, you probably should secure a nuclear site with a fingerprint, regardless. But this new system from Swiss researchers is a step in the right direction. Read More

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Having conquered Chess and Go, the robots move to master Foosball

Posted by | artificial intelligence, EPFL, foosball, Gadgets, Gaming, robotics, robots, Sports, TC | No Comments

foosballcreators We’ve come a long way since the days of selecting a CPU player for the other Pong paddle, tank or hand-to-hand combatant. Now the computers are taking it to us, in meatspace, and seemingly no tabletop activity is safe from their depredations. The latest to succumb to computer domination? Foosball. Read More

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The Pleurobot robo-salamander crawls and swims like a real amphibian

Posted by | artificial intelligence, biomimesis, biomimetic, EPFL, Gadgets, research, robotics, robots, science, TC, university | No Comments

_X3A9216 The mad roboticists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have produced another biomimetic mechanoid — this one based on the lithe locomotion of the salamander. “Pleurobot” imitates the amphibian’s ambulation with its own articulated vertebrae, allowing it to slither along on land or at sea. Read More

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