The Paris-based company Wandercraft has just marketed its first medical exoskeleton. She is working on a general public model which should one day enable people with disabilities to recover from walking and to do without a wheelchair.
franceinfo: what is an exoskeleton?
Matthieu Masselin, president of Wandercraft : an exoskeleton is a robotic structure that allows a person to do things that he cannot do naturally. There are two main types of exoskeletons: those seen in the cinema, called amplification, which give superhuman abilities to the people who wear them. And the reeducation exoskeletons, which do not aim to make humans superhuman, but just to restore capacities that some people may have lost. This is what we do at Wandercraft. We give people who can no longer walk the opportunity to stand up and evolve in their environment.
How easy is it to operate a robot?
No. Walking seems natural but we forget that in humans, it takes 12 to 18 months of learning, and it is the result of an evolution of several million years. For a robot, it is even more difficult. We cannot reproduce all the sensorimotor capacities of the human body. So walking has been a grail of robotics for a very long time. As time went on, however, fairly advanced mathematical theories made it possible to model systems for successfully walking.
Your robot, Atalante, is being deployed in a hospital setting. How long will it take for a disabled person to use an exoskeleton at home?
We hope to be able one day to propose a version usable at home, to go down to get a baguette at the bakery. We still have several years of development before we get there. But what is certain is that our whole team is really determined to release this product one day. It will then be a small revolution for a number of people who really need it. One day the wheelchair will no longer exist.