Technability is a term coined at AeroVironment to describe the efficient merging of technology with human ability. The essence of our Technability3 initiative is to explore ways to interface the physical benefits of modern materials and mechanisms with the ability of the human mind and body to sense, integrate and control activity. There is a wide spectrum of muscle-using mobility assistive devices helping the impaired and assisting in rehabilitation. Devices spread from canes and crutches to powered, full exoskeletons, and there are also non-muscle-using controlled devices from wheelchairs to cars. Technability is exploring within these broad ranges, with an early emphasis on our Technaleg development.
Technaleg is aimed at using simple, lightweight passive apparatus to assist a person as much as possible toward versatile legged mobility that provides the efficiency of operating a bicycle. Two struts connect the feet to heavy loads (a backpack, or a large portion of the individual's weight) in a manner that keeps the load from being supported by the human legs, but still uses the individual's active control system for mobility. There has been reduction-to-practice of initial versions. For the type dedicated to unloading the individual's weight from the legs and lower back, the technical challenge is to reroute appreciable weight with apparatus that must couple to the body through soft tissue. There are at least six coupling mechanisms, for the hip, torso, shoulder, and arm regions. Early experiments suggest that use of multiple coupling mechanisms will do the job with satisfactory comfort. Persons with joint or back problems will be more motivated to walk/exercise and thus maintain physical fitness (being careful not to let the Technalegs assist so much that some muscles atrophy).
The NIH exploratory grant helps support our system development, testing, and interaction with professionals in the health, exercise, and disabilities fields. There are many potentials for this multidisciplinary, fast development approach to human health, comfort, and mobility.
1Principal Investigator - Chairman & Founder, AeroVironment, Inc.
2Members - Technability Scientific Team, AeroVironment, Inc.
3AeroVironment (825 Myrtle Ave., Monrovia, CA 91016 tel: 626-357-9983) is a technology innovation company centering our activities on the development of energy and mobility products and new ventures.