Bionik Laboratories says it’s the first to add the digital assistant to a powered exoskeleton. The company has integrated Alexa with its lower-body Arke exoskeleton, allowing users to give voice commands like “Alexa, I’m ready to stand” or “Alexa, take a step.”
Movement of the Arke, which is currently in clinical development, is usually controlled by an app on a tablet or by reacting automatically to users’ movements. Sensors in the exoskeleton detect when the wearer shifts their weight, activating the motors in the backpack that help the individual move. For Bionik, adding Alexa can help individuals going through rehabilitation get familiar with these actions.
Voice-controlled exoskeleton is an interesting way to overcome the complexity of creating sophisticated brain-machine interfaces, but current technology has a lot of limitations. For example, Alexa doesn’t have yet voice fingerprinting, so anybody in the room could, maliciously or not, utter a command on behalf of the user and harm that person with an undesired exoskeleton movement at the wrong time.
Nonetheless, these are valuable baby steps. If you are interested in Bionik Laboratories, you can see a lot more in their on-stage presentation at IBM Insight conference in 2015.
Did you know that the wheelchair was invented 1500 years ago?