Serious Injury

Comment: Mind-controlled Exoskeleton ‘impressive’ but ‘a long way off’ being ready

April 10, 2019
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Fletchers Solicitor’s Chief Legal Officer, Adrian Denson believes a mind-controlled exoskeleton suit is an exciting breakthrough for serious injury recovery.

Adrian’s comments are in response to a man being able to move all four of his paralysed limbs using the exoskeleton suit.

Thibault, 30, from France, wore the suit at a press briefing and told the world’s media, ‘the suit felt like being the first man on the moon.’

The suit, which is believed to bade made from 65kg of sophisticated robotics, is controlled by the user’s mind.

Adrian said:

This development now sees the person controlling the exoskeleton via the brain, which is an incredibly impressive and most welcome proof of concept. However, it would appear to be a very long way from being something that works effectively and is widely accessible.

Thibault fell 15m in at a social event four years ago. Unfortunately, the injuries sustained were so serious that his spinal cord left him paralysed. Consequently, Thibault spent the next two years in hospital.

Despite his debilitating set back, in 2017, Thibault took part in the exoskeleton trial with Clinatec and the University of Grenoble.

At first, he would use implants connected to his brain to manoeuvre a virtual avatar, as if he was in a computer game. This then developed on to walking in the suit.

Thibault told BBC News:

It was like [being the] first man on the Moon. I didn’t walk for two years. I forgot I was taller than a lot of people in the room,” he said.

It was very difficult because it is a combination of multiple muscles and movements.

This is the most impressive thing I do with the exoskeleton.

Adrian has seen first-hand the devastation such injuries Thibaut experienced can have on an individual and their families.

Adrian continued:

I have had clients who have used exoskeletons before. Whilst they are expensive and not easy to use, they are hugely impressive and allow people with a spinal cord injury to experience walking again along with associated benefits to their bone density, muscle and skin.

Away from the legal industry, Prof Tom Shakespeare, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, believes although exciting, the cost of such technology could hold it back from being widely accessible anytime soon.

He said:

Although this study presents a welcome and exciting advance, we must remember that proof of concept is a long way from usable clinical possibility.

Despite some early cynicism, French scientists hope to refine the technology.
Details of the exoskeleton have been published in The Lancet Neurology journal.

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