This new neural sleeve helps people walk

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Cionic

A new mobility cover in development and out of stealth promises a convincing solution for people with various mobility problems. Combining two critical signaling technologies to both monitor and stimulate the neuromuscular system, the sleeve leads the way in lightweight next-gen mobility devices.

A Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur invented the technology after being diagnosed with cerebral palsy in his daughter. Jeremiah Robison, an alumnus of companies like Apple and Jawbone, was inspired by two of his daughter’s clinical experiences. The first was a complex data capture session in a gait lab using optical and EMG sensors, which recorded accurate information about how she walked. About a year later, functional electrical stimulation was introduced as part of her physical therapy. Electrodes were placed on individual muscle groups, which a therapist would stimulate during walking sessions to stimulate and strengthen the muscles.

Robison’s device and the company he founded to develop the technology, CIONIC, tried to combine the gait sensing and functional stimulation elements that until now required clinical supervision. The device is a wearable for people with mobility problems that not only monitors leg movements, but actually helps to activate the person’s muscles. This is much more difficult to perform than it sounds due to the complexity of combining multiple signals. Combining electromyography (EMG) and functional electrical stimulation (FES) in a single sensor array is almost never done because it is difficult to detect and stimulate the brain/body signaling at the same time.

To make this happen, CIONIC teamed up with the Laboratory of Engineering of the Neuromuscular System (LISiN) at the Polytechnic University of Turin† Last week CIONIC presented the results of a partnership.

“We wanted to create a product that combined the diagnostic power of a multi-million dollar gait lab with the therapeutic power of Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES),” said Robison. “We were convinced that we could use and apply to the human body the recent technological advances that enable innovative products such as self-driving cars to solve a huge problem: 14% of adults in the US experience mobility problems, a number expected to reach 20% by 2050.”

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The resulting sensor array successfully combines electromyography (EMG) and functional electrical stimulation (FES). LISiN also helped develop a comprehensive risk assessment strategy to ensure the product was effective and safe, a critical step to bring the product to market.

Technological convergence is helping to accelerate progress in the medical mobility device market. According to a Research and Markets forecast, the global Smart Mobility market is expected to grow at a CAGR of approximately 29.33%, from $421.32 billion in 2020 to $3296.71 billion in 2029. Functional electrical stimulation is an important driving force behind various new mobility technologies .

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