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A French company creates an exoskeleton to allow wheelchair users to walk

A French tech company is rolling out a new device that allows people in wheelchairs to walk again. It looks like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, but the phenomenal benefit it provides is very, very real.

The company, Wandercraft, calls it the Atalante X. It acts like an exoskeleton, fitting around both legs and the back of the spine. Twelve motors make up the appendages of the robot (six at the hips, two at the knees and four at the ankles), which makes movements more natural.

Each motor receives a signal every millisecond from a user-controlled remote control and a sensor that detects upper body movement. This state-of-the-art technology allows, for the first time, hands-free freedom of movement.

Wandercraft: Latest advances in the self-balancing exoskeleton

Alexandre Boulanger, one of the creators of Wandercraft, considered exoskeletons “the revolution of the future for people with reduced mobility. They help users regain a social life with something as simple as being able to stand up and talk to others face to face.

So far, users seem to agree.

In an interview with Euro News, one of Wandercraft’s test pilots, Kevin Piette, noted: “The first time you get up it’s quite impressive because you can do it very easily, very quietly, comfortably. And then you have that upright posture that you had actually forgotten about.

One of Piette’s favorite and found activities is cooking. “Being able to cook and reach things up high, things that are part of a really mundane day in life, was rewarding. It’s also really nice to be able to be on the same level as people instead of always looking at them. from below,” he told Euro News.

Wandercraft first launched in 2012, with just three engineers. The company now has 50 mathematicians, robotics engineers and biomechanics experts. And so far, $45 million has been raised to further develop a lighter, cheaper and more versatile model.

One of these co-founders, Jean-Louis Constanza, whose son is in a wheelchair, attributes their success to having “a project that really changes society”.

According to the Wheelchair Foundation, around 10 million people need a wheelchair. And that does not take into account developing countries, where less than 10% of those who need it actually have access to it. According to the website, this means that every hour of every day, 145 more wheelchairs are needed worldwide. There is definitely a demand for mobility devices.

Many breakthroughs have been made to make everyday life a little more accessible to people with disabilities, such as smart cars equipped with wheelchairs. But the Atalante X is something truly innovative and one of a kind. Its next steps (pun intended) are to be able to be used outdoors. Wandercraft engineer Jean-Louis Kana noted that the device will have to meet the same regulations as a self-driving car and will need to develop algorithms to ensure stability and reliability. Especially if there is an accident.

However, if the success of Wandercraft continues, the lives of millions of people will truly become limitless. It’s a small step for robotics and a giant leap for inclusion.