Creativity@Home: REHABILITATIVE ELEGANT LOCOMOTION WITH EXOSKELETON AND ACTIVE SUPPORT FOR EXERCISE (RELEASE)

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Civil Environmental and Geomatic Eng

Abstract

RELEASE is intended to explore the possibility of making an exoskeleton to support walking by people with locomotory difficulties with a driving ambition to make the technology invisible to casual observers yet liberating for the end user beyond the 'basic' issue of being able to walk. The project will start by gathering researchers from a variety of research fields - orthopaedics, neuroscience, mechanical engineering, nano technology, accessibility - and developing their collective appreciation of the challenges faced daily by people whose main means of locomotion is currently provided by substantial support such as walking frames, sticks, crutches or a wheelchair. This will be done by bringing the researchers together with people who currently experience these challenges and who can convey the impacts of these challenges on their quality of life, in a seminar activity based around the use of creativity-stimulation techniques including some of those learnt by ARG during its original C@H sessions. This seminar will determine (1) the quality of life desires of the potential end users of the technology, (2) the nature of the combined challenges for the researchers in the different researtch areas, (3) potential other research areas that might need to be incorporated in the team and (4) the overarching strategy for the rest of the RELEASE project.After this seminar, the PI will set tasks for the different research teams to bring back to the RELEASE team so that in the second collective session the details of the challenges can be discussed together in order to establish how progress might be made. The second collective session will take place about one month after the initial seminar. This will be followed by a sequence of further collective sessions over the 12 months of the project, in which challenges will be posed by the PI and responses brought back by the teams so that the overarching view of the feasibility of the technology can be developed by the team working together. Where the challenges need the researchers to unblock their normal creative channels, we will make use of a creativity facilitator to help open up further ways of ascertaining how to approach the problem. As the technical challenges become more apparent and detailed, the team will start to develop propsoals for more substantive research to explore ways in which the over-riding aim could be addressed. Towards the end of the 12 month period the collaborative sessions will turn to the development of these proposals so that future funding can be secured. End user groups will be involved in all of the collaborative sessions, especially where future work is being considered in order to ensure that the end aim of improving their quality of life is maintained.We will know the detailed nature of these challenges once the teams start working together, but as an illustration for this proposal, it is envisaged that we will need to determine the particular end user quality of life needs and setting these as the challenge to the technological developments, to convert current knowledge about biomechanics of walking into a form that could be 'conveyed' to a supportive exoskeleton-type technology, to explore the possibility of developing: a material that could be stiffened in response to a command, a means of controlling that stiffening across an expanse of that material so that it could be used to support movement as understood by the biomechanics issues, a means of making this material breathable so that it could be comfortable to wear, and a suitable energy system to enable all of the above to be achieved. We anticipate that these are great challenges, driven by the quality of life requirement, which will need further substantive research; RELEASE is about elucidating the questions that such substantive research will need to answer in order for such a possibility to be realised.

Planned Impact

Ultimately RELEASE is the starting point for what we intend will be an applied assistive technology to enable people with limited locomotory capabilities to enhance their quality of life as a result of being able to walk more easily and participate more equally in a bipedal world. A first area for impact is therefore that improvement in quality of life. The second strand is the scientific and technical opportunities that can emerge from the attempt to generate a new approach to an exoskeleton which is much smarter - in concept, operation and appearance - than the current approaches. This will give a whole range of opportunities to industry to develop and improve the technology. Thirdly, and possibly the largest in many ways, is the impact of converting the quality of life as a driver of progress in assistive technology. RELEASE is pitched at TRL 1-3 (but mainly TRL 2) and thus the impacts beyond the research team arising from this project are likely to be in the form of raising awareness of a way of looking at the challenges arising from looking at locomotion assistance from a quality of life perspective and the indications of directions for further research to respond to these challenges in the future. Our approach to impact is therefore to maximise the means by which the research team as a whole can express this new approach in terms that end users, medical professionals and industry can understand. The pathways to impact will be managed by the PI and enacted by the ARG Impact Team, which is a standing group of ARG researchers whose terms of reference are to maximise the impact of the group's research. This will mean that the RELEASE impacts will be part of the wider ARG activity and will be incorporated in our standard impact approaches, such as the website and regular meetings with end users, researchers in disciplines such as occupational therapy, psychology and rehabilitation science, as well as industry. The RELEASE programme includes the development of ongoing research proposals and activities and many of these will be continued after the project end in order to maintain the benefits of this first stage in making a difference to the assistive technology designed to help people walk and thus achieve their own ambitions. We believe that RELEASE could be a good opportunity for the broadcast media - its visual characteristics and conjunction of science from nanotechnology to personal benefits for end users would be potentially quite attractive to the visual media in particular - and so we will be developing our connections with BBC Online with this in mind. The ARG Impact Team has regular informational sessions with BBC Online researchers and RELEASE will become one of the topics of conversation which eventually emerge into articles at the right time. We have found in the past that BBC Online is an excellent dissemination medium as it has a quality stamp that is recognised all over the world (previous ARG presence on BBC Online generated television programmes and newspaper articles in Germany and Canada which in turn led to enquiries from researchers all over the world for the use of our facilities for example).

Publications

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Adhitya S (2017) Musical Cities

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Adhitya S (2016) Small things with big impact in urban infrastructure design in International Journal of Complexity in Applied Science and Technology

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Hill D (2017) WHAT ARE USER PERSPECTIVES OF EXOSKELETON TECHNOLOGY? A LITERATURE REVIEW. in International journal of technology assessment in health care

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Holloway C (2015) Time and force required for attendants boarding wheelchair users onto aircraft in International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics

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Mindell J (2011) Synergies between low-carbon and healthy transport policies in Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Transport

 
Description Interdisciplinary outcomes are important
Exploitation Route Collaborations with industry and government partners
Sectors Transport

 
Description Collaborative co-creation of ideas
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Transport
 
Description UK Co-laboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) Person Environment Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL)
Amount £125,000,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P018629/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2018
 
Description UKCRIC - Person Environment Activity Research Laboratory
Amount £5,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation University College London 
Department Faculty of Engineering Sciences
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2022
 
Description UKCRIC Person Environment Activity research Laboratory (PEARL)
Amount £5,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation University College London 
Department Faculty of Engineering Sciences
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2018
 
Description PEARL in the community 
Organisation London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We provide the expertise on accessibility and scientific measurement of capabilities for urban design
Collaborator Contribution They provide contacts and involvement in a steering group, site for demonstrations and further research
Impact This is still underway. At the moment this has moved into site identification for a future engagement activity, relationship-building with New York City, Greater Manchester and others
Start Year 2017
 
Description Renewable energy and transport design in Xi'an 
Organisation Xi'an University of Architecture and Technology
PI Contribution We provide the modelling for estimation of impacts of modal shift
Collaborator Contribution They provide the renewable energy data related to domestic and industrial buildings
Impact None yet
Start Year 2017
 
Description Urban design as a support for democratic approaches to community living 
Organisation Havana University of Technologies José Antonio Echeverría (CUJAE)
Country Cuba 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provided expertise and knowledge about transport, urban design, economics and society in the Cuban context to support the local CUJAE Architecture team in working with the local community in Centro Habana
Collaborator Contribution CUJAE brought highly skilled academics, teams of students and contacts with Cuban and Havana Governments, local business and industry, a means by which we could interact with Cuban law and urban design opportunities.
Impact Various internal reports so far.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Advice to new Argentina Government on sustainable design of cities and mobility systems 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I was part of a team invited by the British Embassy in Buenos Aires to provide advice and support to the incoming Argentinian government on cities and mobility systems, including urban planning and design, smart cities etc.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Barking Riverside Healthy New Town 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A series of public engagement events to show how walking could be made easier for older people and others by changing the footway surfaces
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Member of the judging panel for the Unlimited Doha Design Prize 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a Design Prize about future cities initiated by the Emirate and the British Council. The immediate event was attended by around 50 people, including the prize-winning teams, and the subsequent publicity reached a much wider audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Talk in Chile 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Distinguished inaugural lecture for the new MSC in city planning in the School of Architecture and Urbanism, Ponitificia Universidad Catolica Chile
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017