GenElek’s robotic exoskeletons give disabled people a chance to walk
Our focus on #TechThursdays is on robotic exoskeletons developed by GenElek Technologies’. This Delhi-based start-up focuses on developing affordable exoskeletons that can help people with spinal cord injuries, paralysis and other conditions affecting lower limb mobility.
Cybathlon 2020 is a well-known competition where disabled people compete with the help of advanced assistive devices. Indian start-up GenElek Technologies’ will make its debut this year with a robotic exoskeleton. GenElek is participating in the Powered Exoskeleton Race. This is a high-profile event attracting top organisations. Two ex-Indian Army soldiers Arun Pal and Ajit Kumar Shukla from the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre in Chandigarh are taking part.
“I am looking forward to competing in Cybathlon 2020 with the exoskeleton”, says Arun, who was disabled in the line of duty and is now a top para athlete. “The exoskeleton is light and comfortable to wear for a long time”.
Wearable devices that aid mobility
This feeling of comfort along with affordability is the focus of GenElek Technologies’. An exoskeleton, simply put, is a wearable device that aids mobility. It cannot reverse or cure a physical disability. What it can do is make movement easier.
GenElek Technologies’ CEO John Kujur started working on the idea in his final year of engineering at the Netaji Subhash Institute of Technology (NSIT). “A senior student with a locomotor disability was finding it hard to get a job”, recalls John. “He was a far better engineer but was being judged entirely on the basis of his disability. I did not want this to happen”.
Lack of funds forced John to take a brief break. But he picked the project again during his master’s degree. Cybathlon 2020 will give the robotic exoskeleton global visibility and hopefully attract collaborations.
Cybathlon 2020 is a competition where assistive technology from around the world is tested to the limits. There are six to eight disciplines and we are in the powered exoskeleton race. The race is divided into a track that is segmented into eight parts. Each part has obstacles and our exoskeleton will help the athletes navigate the obstacles. – John Kujur, Founder – CEO, GenElek Technologies
Affordable exoskeletons for Indian market
The team is fine-tuning the second prototype of the exoskeleton. After Cybathlon 2020, they plan to launch it in India. “We want to bring the costs down”, says Vivek Pandey, Co-founder GenElek Technologies’. “The cost at present is ₹ 30 lakh and we are working to reduce that”.
Many people with varying needs are showing interest in GenElek’s exoskeletons. “Some people want it for their grandparents, another person asked for his son”, says Vivek. “It is useful for anyone who has trouble moving around”.
Mohit Sharma from Chandigarh is among them. This 30-year-old has been a wheelchair user after he suffered an injury in a road accident eight years ago. “I broke my backbone and damaged the spinal cord”, says Mohit. “I have no movement in the lower half of my body. The exoskeleton will help me move about easily and meet people. India is not a wheelchair friendly country and the exoskeleton will make life much easier for me”.
Vishal Ujjania, Assistant Manager, Reserve Bank of India, New Delhi, has tried the exoskeleton. He has cerebral palsy and a locomotor disability. “I have difficulty walking and the exoskeleton will help resolve my mobility issues. I find it lightweight, comfortable and easy to use. I am really looking forward to the launch”.