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November 24, 2020 Tuesday 04:13:59 PM IST

‘WalkON Suit 4’ Releases Paraplegics from Wheelchairs​

Technology Inceptions

Paraplegic athletes Byeong-Uk Kim and Joohyun Lee from KAIST’s Team Angel Robotics won a gold and a bronze medal respectively at the Cybathlon 2020 Global Edition last week. ‘WalkON Suit 4,’ a wearable robot developed by the Professor Kyoungchul Kong’s team from the Department of Mechanical Engineering topped the standings at the event with double medal success. Cybathlon is a global championship, organized by ETH Zurich, which brings together people with physical disabilities to compete using state-of-the-art assistive technologies to perform everyday tasks. KAIST’s Team Angel Robotics participated in the Powered Exoskeleton Race category, where nine pilots representing five nations including Korea, Switzerland, the US, Russia, and France competed against each other.

The team installed their own arena and raced at the KAIST Main Campus in Daejeon according to the framework, tasks, and rules defined by the competition committee. The two paraplegic pilots were each equipped with exoskeletal devices, the WalkON Suit 4, and undertook six tasks related to daily activities. The WalkON Suit 4 recorded the fastest walking speed for a complete paraplegic ever reported. For a continuous walk, it achieved a maximum speed of 40 meters per minute. This is comparable to the average walking pace of a non-disabled person, which is around two to four kilometers per hour. The research team raised the functionality of the robot by adding technology that can observe the user’s level of anxiety and external factors like the state of the walking surface, so it can control itself intelligently. The assistive functions a robot should provide vary greatly with the environment, and the WalkON Suit 4 made it possible to analyze the pace of the user within 30 steps and provide a personally optimized walking pattern, enabling a high walking speed.

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