Wearable robotics a/k/a exoskeletons
Because what do you do when you?re a mega-large, global mechatronics company (Yaskawa Electric Corp) promoting a company theme of Vision 2015, which is heavy into human-assist robotics, yet do not have an exoskeleton for your country?s ageing population or to assist at Fukushima-type disasters?
That?s not really a very credible human-assist vision for 2015, is it?
This PR release rolled out today nicely fills a gaping hole: ?ARGO Medical Technologies has partnered with innovative robotics experts YASKAWA Electric Corporation as it continues the global expansion of its ReWalk exoskeleton device which enables individuals with lower limb disabilities such as paraplegia to walk.
“YASKAWA has made a significant capital investment into the ReWalk exoskeleton technology and will also serve as the exclusive distributor for the ReWalk in Japan, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Korea.
“This recent investment by YASKAWA [undisclosed] is the largest single investment as ARGO closes its most recent round of fundraising which marks its largest to date. The new funding and partnership with YASKAWA will help advance the ReWalk infrastructure and technology for users and support company growth with the expansion of research and development and enhanced design to streamline manufacturing.?
Yaskawa now is a player in the exoskeleton space
ARGO currently offers two ReWalk exoskeleton models: the ReWalk Personal (currently available in Europe and Israel and pending FDA review in the US); and the ReWalk Rehabilitation (now available in Europe, Israel and the United States).
?Both models are designed to provide a customized user experience with on-board computers and motion sensors that restore self-initiated walking without needing tethers or switches to begin movement,? says the PR release.
The Yaskawa/Argo announcement means that the new partnership has joined Panasonic’s Activelink Powerloader, Cyberdyne’s HAL, Argo Medical Technologies’ Rewalk, Rex Bionics’ REX, Ekso Bionics EKSO, RB3D’s Hercule and Parker Hannifin?s Indego, in the burgeoning world of wearable robotics (i.e. exoskeletons).
Yaskawa needed a little oomph to its human-assist robotics image in Japan, a field which most recently has been led by the robot suit known as the ?Hybrid Assistive Limb?, or rather, HAL for short: a specially developed exoskeleton to help and assist both the elderly and disabled to get around, and is even offered in a disaster-assist version.
HAL, the brainchild of Professor Yoshiyuki Sankai of Tsukuba University and CEO of Cyberdyne Corp, is already approved for sale in Japan and then in February (2013) became the first powered exoskeleton to receive global safety certification, and has recently received a European Union Certificate of Conformity in Germany. In short, HAL is ready for roll out to worldwide markets.
All in a day’s work
Yaskawa now has instant market presence in both the health care and disaster relief markets…and fulfillment for its Vision 2015. Argo now has a very deep-pocketed ally providing funds to evolve its exoskeleton technology and to penetrate all non-Asian markets. Both have been well served by this deal.
See related: Chapter on Exoskeleton Technology & Industry in Perspectives 2013: Outlook for Health Care Robotics