Here’s a wheelchair alternative that may eventually save on the cost of some of the more expensive home modifications such as widening doorways. It’s a new concept that will surely improve but already holds much promise.
According to its website, Tek RMD, provides the opportunity of movement for people with paraplegia by enabling them to independently stand up in a completely upright position with correct posture, facilitating their movement and comfortable completion of their daily tasks indoors, such as in the home, office and shopping mall. Tek RMD is not an alternative to wheelchairs, it is a totally new concept, a new platform.
Other options for stand-up mobility include the use of exoskeleton technologies like that created by Ekso Bionics (below). But both solutions shown still have problems to overcome.
Medicare does not yet pay for any type standing device, manual or power, and they don’t cover the cost of stair lifts, home elevators, environmental controls, or home modifications. Since private insurers model their policies after Medicare, they too don’t cover these expenses either. Hopefully our over burdened healthcare system will eventually fund these types of enabling devices, but until then they remain out of reach for many of those who need them the most.
Both video examples show relatively young and fit paraplegics rather than much older or overweight people with less upper body strength and agility. Since that market is growing, I’m hopeful to see more work in that space and hope to report soon on some related robotics work being done in Japan.
Mobility solutions that work well in the home or other controlled setting may face new obstacles in real world settings, including uneven curb cuts, the angle of stair ramps, rough surfaces, etc. Bigger wheels can help – something similar to Segway.
What other unaddressed issues do you see? Can you point us to other interesting projects?