Wyss Institute Core Faculty member Conor Walsh, Ph.D., is a winner of the 2016 Rolex Awards for Enterprise for his work on a soft robotic exosuit that could help people suffering from loss of mobility from stroke or other medical conditions to regain their ability to walk.
The Rolex Awards are an international philanthropic program that recognizes projects that take on major challenges to benefit mankind. Walsh is a winner along with nine other innovative Laureates including a polar scientist, an eye specialist who wants to prevent millions of people from going blind, and other winners whose projects aim to stop world hunger, save species threatened by extinction, and conserve habitats.
Developed by Walsh’s team at the Harvard Biodesign Lab at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the exosuit is a soft wearable robot. It could one day assist physically impaired wearers by analyzing their muscles, limbs and joints and enabling healthy patterns of movement to be restored.
Through years of research with voluntary study participants, the soft exosuits designed by Walsh and his team use mechanical actuators to deliver small amounts of force at the right time to assist wearers into walking with effective motions. Beyond providing assistance to the lower limbs, Walsh’s team is also developing prototypes that could improve mobility of the upper extremities and other wearable devices that combine apparel and robotics.
Walsh and the other winners will be recognized on the evening of November 15 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, in celebration of the spirit of enterprise. This year’s 10 winners join 130 Laureates who have been recognized in the 40 years since the Awards’ launch in 1976.