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French Startup Builds Bipedal Robotic Exoskeleton

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Not satisfied with the currently available solutions on the market, Paris-based startup Wandercraft claims to have built a robotic suit that can emulate the way humans walk, according to ZDNet. The company, which has just raised a €15 million round of financing, is working on a product that offers bipedal walking, thus allowing mobility-impaired people to walk and stand in a manner that more accurately resembles the human gait.

According to an interview conducted with Matthieu Masselin, founder and general manager of Wandercraft, what sets Wandercraft’s product apart from others is that its exoskeleton walks without crutches and is self-balanced. Being able to offer a bipedal device means the company is replicating the biomechanics of walking, which has been notoriously difficult to emulate.

Many competing products offer a quadrupedal solution, which means that the exoskeleton’s two legs are completed with two other contact points. Thus, a quadrupedal suit would not replicate the human walk, as humans walk on two legs rather than four.

The implication here is important: Wandercraft’s reasoning for attempting to develop a more complex product is to ensure system stability and to avoid the need for crutches when walking, since this necessarily puts a lot of strain on users’ shoulders and upper limbs. According to the company, its main market is mobility-impaired patients in rehab centers, and there are about 3 to 5 million mobility-impaired people who could benefit from this product in the Northern Hemisphere alone.

The product itself is battery-powered, and a full charge is said to allow three to four hours of continuous usage, which would allow one full day of typical rehab center work, or one day of urban usage. However, as you can imagine, the suit itself is quite heavy, at 50kg, though the company says that the product will be slimmed down for future versions that are marketed to individuals rather than rehab centers.

Wandercraft plans on using the money raised during its latest round of financing to obtain the necessary certifications and bring the product to market, hoping to first sell its exoskeleton to European rehab centers. Currently, no price has been announced for the product, but the company says that the rehab price would be comparable to similar equipment. Although it is hard to imagine the exoskeleton being cheap, one would hope that future versions that are marketed to individuals would be more affordable.

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