24 Apr Cyberdyne – Changing Paradigms of Exoskeleton Market
Cyberdyne’s (OTC Pink: CYBQY) HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) lower-body exoskeleton, touted to be the world’s first cyborg – type robot, received a FDA approval to start offering its exoskeleton in the U.S through licensed medical facilities in January 2018. This device can support, enhance and improve the wearer’s bodily functions. The technology behind HAL was recognized as a Notable Invention by World Intellectual Property Organization.
The company is engaged in creating pioneering solutions in medical and welfare fields to offer living, care and labor support through its Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL). It uses “Cybernics” an amalgamation of human, robot technology and information systems to address social issues through research and development. Its interdisciplinary research is based on cybernetics, mechatronics, and informatics in conjunction with fields such as neuroscience, robotics, systems engineering, information technology, “kansei” engineering, ergonomics, physiology, social science, law, ethics, management, economics etc.
The growing popularity of Exoskeleton Systems
Robotic Exoskeletons have emerged as a boon for people who suffer from debilitating Spinal Cord Injuries or Paraplegia.
Paralysis is a widespread disability that affects 1.7 percent of Americans, with over 5,357,970 people living with some form of paralysis according a study conducted by the Centres for disease control and prevention (CDC) in association with 14 leading universities and medical centres. A research study estimates that there are nearly 5.4 million people living with paralysis between the ages of 18 and 64 years.
The Global Exoskeleton industry which was valued at $220 million in 2018 will reach over $3.5 billion by 2026 according to a report by Global Market Insights, Inc.
The increasing incidences of Ischemic stroke-induced paralysis, spine related injuries owing to motor accidents, workplace injuries, stroke and cancer related motor disability along with hyperextension of the spine and vertebral dislocation are spurring the growth in the market. There has been an increasing regulatory support to reduce Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI); this coupled with scientific advancements in the robotics operated exoskeleton market as well as stem cell research will help the market grow.
Current Exoskeleton systems have a large scope for improvement
The biggest challenge with existing exoskeleton systems are issues related to prohibitive costs, bulky weight, size, speed, and efficiency. There are stringent government regulations and regulatory framework that a company has to adhere to in order to prove the efficacy of its devices. Tetraplegia affects 55% of the SCI population, but the currently approved devices can only cater to people with C7 and below SCI as they lack the hand functions to handle the devices. Another limitation is that existing exoskeletons cater to those with a body weight of less than 220 lbs or 100 kg; this will preclude those who are obese from making use of the technology. Also a person is required to achieve hip extension range of motion within 10-15 degrees and knee extension with less than 10 degrees flexion in supine or standing position with ankle joints in neutral position to be qualified to use the device which further limits the people eligible from using it.
This is set to change as some companies are revolutionizing the treatment options for paraplegics by their path breaking innovations to create improved exoskeleton support.
Cyberdyne – Bringing something unique to the table
Cyberdyne’s exoskeleton is targeted at people with lower limb disabilities and uses a novel combination of voluntary control and autonomous control. The system uses the wearer’s own nervous system to guide the robots movements. The basic premise is that in a healthy body when a person intends to walk, his brain sends a signal to the muscles that control motion. In case of people with disabilities, this brain and muscle synapse is broken. However, HAL is able to read these signals by tuning into the faint signals on the skin’s surface called “bio-electric signals [BES]”by attaching detectors to the wearer’s skin. The device has adjustable elements that can fit varied leg lengths, hip widths and foot sizes in wide ranges.
After understanding what the wearer’s intentions are, HAL directs its power units to assist the wearer‘s motions or can even exert more power as required. One distinguishing feature is that post-event, the device gives a feedback to the brain about what movements were made and which muscles were used. This creates a neural loop between the brain, nervous system and the musculoskeletal system which the company calls “an interactive biofeedback loop”.
The device can be used for bathing aid too, as it has a water proof function.
The company intends to use these systems for medical assistance, factory related heavy lifting and rescue activities in disaster sites. CYBERDYNE Inc. has received an ISO13485 (medical device), a first for a robotic medical device manufacturer.
In addition, it is also developing a HAL treadmill in order to provide effective walking exercise for safe gait training in cases of lower limb disabilities, a cleaning robot and a transportation robot. Acoustic X is its non-medical use high speed light pulse LED array light source that enables real-time photo acoustic imaging.
The company has recently started offering its products and services in Philippines as well. It signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia in March 2017, to assist the victims of traumatic spinal injuries in the country.
In our opinion the key challenge that Cyberdyne as well as other players in the exoskeleton market face, is a lack of investor education and poor end-user perception. While on one hand its medical device market is experiencing a linear growth, it is facing rising competition in the industrial device segment. The economic burden of the disease, the prohibitive cost of the devices and lack of insurance coverage is another major challenge for the company. This prevents paraplegics from seeking and adapting to technological advancements in the field.
The company has an ingenuous solution for the problem; it rents out its devices to customers. It is also looking at making inroads into newer markets where the demand for such devices is high, with little or no competition present.
About Cyberdyne Inc.
Cyberdyne Inc. (OTC Pink: CYBQY) was established as a venture company by Dr. Yoshiyuki Sankai, University of Tsukuba, Japan, in order to materialize his idea of “Cybernics” and use Robot Suit HAL® for the benefit of the society in fields of medicine, industry and welfare. The company which was founded in June 2004 is based out of Tsukuba, Japan.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
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