Not long ago, I wrote about opportunities in aging. The main point of the prior post was that there will be many business opportunities – ranging from the mundane to the esoteric – that will emerge as the population ages.
Somewhere in this range, I would put the potential for powered exoskeletons (or exos) to hit the mainstream consciousness. They have already tickled our entertainment fancy in recent memory, with the popularity of 2008’s Iron Man movie. But, for a Youtube primer on the variety of real-life exoskeletons that are in circulation today, take a quick tour of the following:
- The Sarcos from defense contractor Raytheon
- The Hal (or Hybrid assistive limb) from Cyberdine
- The ReWalk by Argo Medical Technologies
- The ExoHiker and HULC products from Berkeley Bionics (BB)
I listed them, based on personal opinion, in the order of least likely to be used by the average citizen to most potential for mainstream adoption, with something like the BB technology getting my nod as the closest to being used by someone in the near future.
When you consider that there are half a million knee operations a year, trending to three million in the U.S. in the next couple of decades, the notion of consumer exos makes sense. Add age to injury, with another baby boomer reaching age 60 every seven seconds, and the population of potential consumers gets sizeable rapidly.
Personally, I’m excited about the potential for the elderly, injured, or afflicted (I grew up with a mom who was mobility impaired by MS) to have the option to strap on an exoskeleton-style device like a version of one of the BB models and be able to gain a measure of mobility that they otherwise wouldn’t have.
Continued developments in areas like specialized microprocessors and lightweight nanotechnology-based materials lead me to believe that it’s not a question of “if it will happen” but “when.”