Hyundai debuts a miracle device that can help paraplegics walk

Last Update: June 20, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Hyundai debuts a miracle device that can help paraplegics walk




Like most automotive manufacturers at this year’s CES, Hyundai put an emphasis on its self-driving concept car. But the real innovation on display from the company had nothing to do with vehicles.

Off to the side of the crowded booth sat a spherical display featuring a trio of prototype exoskeletons Hyundai is hoping to get into the market soon. Each of the devices offered a different functionality — aiding in industrial work, helping to carry elderly people and giving paraplegics the chance to walk again.

“A car is one kind of mobility device,” says Jung Kyungmo, senior research engineer on the Human Factors and Devices Research team at Hyundai. “Exoskeletons [are] another kind of mobility device we think, so we developed [this].”

Hyundai’s not the first to create an exoskeleton, of course, but it’s approaching the field much like it did with the auto industry: with an eye toward making them more accessible and affordable to a larger audience.

The mechanics

It’s likely going to be some time before they’re available commercially, however. Kyungmo says all of the devices that were being shown and demoed at CES were prototypes, and they’ve just started doing clinical trials with the goal of getting FDA certification in the United States (and the corresponding medical certification in Korea). At present, it doesn’t expect to achieve that goal before 2018. And even once that milestone is achieved, the product will face a slow consumer rollout.

The H-MEX (Hyundai Medical Exoskeleton), designed for paraplegics, was the first exoskeleton born from the company’s R&D labs. That device not only allows people paralyzed below the waist to take steps but also improves blood circulation among patients. Additionally, says Kyungmo, the exoskeleton can be used in rehabilitation for patients with spinal injuries that have not resulted in permanent paralysis.

To the outward observer, the H-MEX resembles old-style leg braces (think about what a young Forrest Gump wore in the 1994 Academy Award-winning film) with a bulky battery pack nestled in the small of the user’s back. Leg lengths on the exoskeleton are adjustable to fit any user.