October 09, 2014      

Russ Angold, via a personal tragedy, has become a bionic entrepreneur who provides many of the concepts that shape the current inventions and intellectual property of Ekso Bionics, a pioneer in the field of robotic exoskeletons.

Angold, co-founder of the Richmond, Calif.-based RBR50 company, recently sat down with Joanne Pransky, associate editor of Industrial Robot, to discuss the evolution, commercialization and challenges of bringing a technological invention (exoskeletons) to market.

The interview has been made available for free to RBR readers until October 26. Just follow this link

Angold will also be speaking about exoskeletons at RoboBusiness 2014 (Oct. 15-17, Hynes Convention Center, Boston) in a session called “Commercial Opportunities for Exoskeleton Technologies” on Wednesday, October 16 at 3:30pm in Room 208. Angold will talk about the history of exoskeletons, how exoskeletons are being used today, and where exoskeletons could take us in the future.

Here is a preview of the interview with Pransky:

Pransky: Was the first version designed to be an Exo for the medical field?

Angold: No, our first Exos were all for load carriage. We made the very first Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX) to carry weight. We then realized the power consumption was just a huge issue. We figured out a way to take the power consumption from 5,000 W down to 5 W and still enable the Exo to carry 200 lb. That was really the breakthrough that made us start the company. We filed for some patents, and we licensed the technology back from UC Berkeley.

Pransky: And how did you come to your technological discoveries?

Angold: It was kind of common sense to me. The robot was just sitting there burning a bunch of power, and it wasn’t doing any real work. If you look at humans, we don’t get tired standing there. Sure, if you stand all day, you’ll get tired. But it’s not like you’re out of breath when you’re just standing still. So, why were our Exos using so much power when they weren’t doing anything useful?

I said there has to be a way that we can make a structure that mimics our skeletal structure that can support a bunch of weight without burning a bunch of power and without using actuators. We figured that out, and we called it ExoHiker. It’s really just a mechanical widget and it?s the order of the joints and the way we do it that allows for the exostructure to support all that weight. That was the first version we came up with.

Now we could support the weight, but we wanted to also provide power to the users, powers to their legs. We then started adding power back into the individual. If someone wanted to climb a mountain, our mechanical one wouldn’t help to provide any extra assistance to get up that hill. Then we added power modules which we called our ExoClimber that would then inject power to the human knees and provide that extra “giddy up” to get someone up the hill. That worked great going up hills, but not so much on level ground.

To read the entire interview for free until Oct. 26, click here.

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