Wandercraft’s latest exoskeleton allows paraplegics to walk with a more natural gait

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta January 20, 2022
Updated 2022/01/20 at 6:40 AM

Paris-based Wandercraft announced that it is the latest “atalante” The exoskeleton has been updated to give paraplegics and other patients a more natural gait during rehabilitation exercises. It also received a Medical Device Regulation (MDR) certificate in Europe, allowing patients and medical staff to use the device more widely. step closer to personal exoskeletons with additional funding.

The last time I saw Wandercraft’s first-generation exoskeleton was over four years ago, which is a long time in the robotics field. However, I recently had the chance to see the latest model in use with paraplegic patients and talk to them and the team behind Atalante.

Wandercraft Atalante exoskeleton

Steve Dent/Ploonge

Exoskeletons (or exos as they are called in the industry) are motorized “wearable robots” tailored to each user, designed to assist with walking rehabilitation treatments and restore a patient’s mobility. Atalante is Wandercraft’s second generation exo with more advanced design and features than the original model. It comes with a remote control to operate it and a new app that allows a physical therapist and patient to adjust movements and exercise programs. It uses two sets of removable batteries that allow for continuous use.

The new model is much smaller, more agile and more comfortable for patients, thanks to new hardware, fit adjustments and smarter software. It’s now self-balanced, so it’s easier to control for both patients and physical therapists. While not yet approved for use on its own, Wandercraft showed me a video demonstrating that it can self-balance even when unbalanced. It also offers features that facilitate entry and exit, along with a “Wander Balance” feature that allows for easy “upright” to help the patient stand up.

The device automatically generates optimized and adjustable kinematics according to each patient’s morphology, with settings allowing for personalized exercises. The latest feature is “RealGait” (shown above), which allows for physiological walking with adjustable speeds. “CustomGait” allows the pace, step length and center of mass to be changed, while “ActiveGait” allows the user to change assistance effort from 0 to 100 percent. This feature also includes an “EarlyGait” setting for getting started, along with the new RealGait setting.

These features, plus minor changes, make Atalante much more useful. “We’ve improved the half-turns so they happen at one point instead of taking up a lot of space,” Matthieu Masselin, CEO of Wandercraft, told me. “We redesigned things like the attachments and the padding. This allows the patient to get in faster, move more comfortably and take more walks with each session – which means more rehabilitation and re-education benefits.”

All of this is enabled by various sensors and software that can make adjustments in real time, Wandercraft told me. The device’s “sense of balance” enables the various gait patterns, while giving the patient and physical therapist confidence that the device (which is not yet lightweight at 130 pounds) will not tip over.

Wandercraft Atalante exoskeleton

Steve Dent/Ploonge

Wandercraft allows some patients to use the Atalante for rehabilitation purposes and I have seen it in action with Arbiha, a paraplegic patient who has used it in several sessions. The device was suspended from the ceiling and operated by a physical therapist for safety reasons, but the plan is to one day have a version that can be used in the real world without assistance.

It was impressive how easily she was able to walk during a relatively long hour-long session. Exotherapy offers some clear benefits, such as stimulation of the cardiovascular/lymphatic systems and training for the arms and other supporting muscles, but it goes far beyond that.

Wandercraft Atalante exoskeleton

Steve Dent/Ploonge

“It stimulates my body and my spirit,” Arbhia told me. “It gives me a cardio workout that I wouldn’t get otherwise. Standing for quite a long time also helps with my balance, as you lose that aspect when you don’t stand. I have a digestive illness and the walking therapy also helped to stabilize that, which is something I didn’t expect.”

The ultimate goal of Wandercraft is a personal exoskeleton that can be used as an assistive device at home or on the streets. To that end, the company has just received $45 million in funding to help it fulfill this “mobility for all” mission. “With the team we have, the funding we have received and the technology we have developed, we are confident that one day we will be able to have our exos on the streets and in people’s homes,” said Masselin. “But we still have a lot of work to do.”

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