Amputees and others who have difficulty standing may be able to move around a lot easier thanks to a new prototype that was unveiled late last week by Exmovere (McLean, Virginia).
The company has developed a device called the Exomovere Chariot, a "wearable," self-balancing vehicle. The Chariot mostly resembles the bottom of a showbot, robot suits that are used in trade show and marketing venues.
Exmovere said that unlike other self-balancing vehicles, the Exmovere Chariot is controlled by subtle movements of the lower torso and hips. Sensors inside the cocoon-like shell of the vehicle predict the intended motion of the wearer. The Chariot requires no manual dexterity, minimal physical effort and allows wearers to closely approach and reach objects.
The upright form of the Chariot allows its wearer to make direct eye contact with others. The Chariot is battery powered and can travel up to 12 miles per hour.
"The Chariot is a concept vehicle," Exmovere Chairman David Bychkov told Medical Device Daily. "It's not a product yet. I imagine that at some point when our research is complete with the Chariot that there will be some type of action requesting FDA approval."
BychKov said the bread and butter for the Chariot would be for those who work in mail houses and the military.
"So far we've been getting enormously positive feedback from the Pentagon," he said. "We'll need to go a little further on the R&D trail to meet their needs but this is definitely going to lead to some great possibilities."
Production versions of the Chariot will integrate Exmovere's proprietary vital sign sensors, environmental and ground clearance sensors, wireless and cellular connectivity, a smaller form factor and unique options for military and law enforcement customers. Exmovere will also develop a feature of the Chariot that can switch the wearer from upright to seated position. Exmovere seeks to partner with an automotive manufacturer to eventually launch a performance-oriented Chariot.
With its upright form, the Chariot lets wearers make direct eye contact with other people, as if they were standing.
The battery powered concept vehicle, has been unveiled in demonstrations at Exmovere's headquarters. They are also designing a version that will allow the wearer to move from an upright to seated position, letting them 'sit down' between journeys, while still wearing the device.
When asked how the Chariot works, Bychkov says it's simple: "Just like a pair of pants. How do your pair of pants know where you're going to go when you walk ... that's how simple the Chariot is."
The only requirement is that the person would have some ability to move their lower torso. A slight movement is all that's needed to get the Chariot going in the needed direction.
The company has been working on self-balancing tech such as the Chariot for 14 months. Plans also call for the vehicle to be reconfigured to more easily deal with an outdoor terrain. This modification was noted after the company received feedback that this would be an extraordinary feature to add to the Chariot.
"The Chariot represents an exciting path for our company. Whereas our team was originally focused on designing sensor products that monitored signs of life, the Chariot's sensors are designed to make life more livable. We especially hope that the Chariot will offer dignity, strength and increased mobility to those who were wounded serving our country," Bychkov said.
To date the Chariot's competition in the self-balancing devices market is the already existing Segway PT, a two-wheeled, electric vehicle. It is produced by Segway (Bedford, New Hampshire). The Segway was first unveiled nearly eight years ago, but first produced in 2002.
Exmovere is a biomedical engineering company that specializes in emotion sensing applications for healthcare, homeland security and mobility.