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Soft Wearable Shoulder-Assistive Device

A lightweight inflatable device to help people suffering from neuromuscular conditions regain shoulder mobility

Patients suffering from neuromuscular conditions such as muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and incomplete spinal cord injury are, in many cases, confronted with partial or total loss of their shoulder strength and mobility that greatly limit their abilities to perform activities of daily living. In the long term, this is believed to increase their risk for secondary complications and significantly reduce patients’ life expectancy.

Like other soft wearable robots at the Wyss Institute, the inflatable shoulder-assistive device is developed using a ‘human-in-the-loop’ approach by closely involving human subjects and patients at all stages of the process. This enables step-by-step modifications that improve both the technical performance of the devices as well as facilitate their adoption in the personal and social context of wearers’ lives.

The shoulder joint is challenging to assist due to its complex movement. Our team has already demonstrated that a soft wearable robot can fully support the arm movement through typical range of motions and we are now beginning to evaluate its potential with our clinical partners.

Conor Walsh

The inflatable shoulder-assistive device, which can be worn as a vest, is constructed of neoprene, reinforced with a flexible plate below the axilla (armpit). It combines a new set of soft textile inflatable actuators, custom-developed for supporting the upper arm through shoulder abduction and horizontal flexion/extension. One of the actuators fits within the axilla and by filling strategically positioned chambers with air, pushes the arm upward in an abduction movement. A pair of smaller inflatable actuators pivot the abduction actuator to allow for horizontal extension and flexion. Since the lightweight actuators are integrated into the garment and fold flat when not in use, they maintain a low-profile and can be comfortably worn under regular clothing.

The inflatable shoulder-assistive device technology is available for licensing.

You can read about our Soft Robotic Glove technology here.

To obtain additional information or to learn more about our intellectual property portfolio or licensing opportunities, please contact us.

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