Exoskeleton approved by U.S. agency for stroke rehabilitation

A self-balancing exoskeleton that enables users to move in multiple directions hands-free has been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for stroke rehabilitation.

Since 2020, French developers Wandercraft have deployed 22 copies of their posture training “Atalante” exoskeleton in clinical settings. With FDA backing, they hope to deliver the first “Atalante” exoskeletons to the United States during the first quarter of 2023.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year, more than 795,000 people in the U.S. suffer from a stroke, a leading cause of serious long-term disability.

Still a long way to go

The “Atalante” has been sold to hospitals in France, Luxembourg, and the United States, and costs about USD 220,000 apiece.

The exoskeleton still cannot be bought by private individuals for everyday use - that is the next stage the company is working on. A personal exoskeleton would need to be much lighter, Wandercraft engineers said.

The “Atalante”

In 2021, Reuters had the opportunity to film the possibilities wearable exoskeletons may provide for people with disabilities.

In one case, Oscar Constanza, the son of robotics engineer and inventor Jean-Louis Constanza, instructed a voice command to the exoskeleton he was wearing. No sooner had he given the green light than the large frame strapped to his body lifted him up and he was walking. Fastened to his shoulders, chest, waist, knees, and feet, the exoskeleton allowed Oscar - who has a genetic neurological condition where his nerves do not send enough signals needed to his legs - to walk across the room and turn around.

Other companies across the world are also now manufacturing exoskeletons, competing to make them as light and usable as possible. Some focus on helping disabled people walk, while others on a different set of applications like making standing less tiring for factory workers.