Paralyzed in an accident from the waist down, Arjun* thought he would never walk again.
However, the 30-year-old, backed by his loved ones and a generous community, soon turned to a team of technologists and scientists, including MVP Praveen Srivatsa, for a second chance at life. The result is an impressive feat: an exoskeleton powered by Microsoft technologies which restores mobility to those without it.
Praveen, a six-time MVP titleholder from Bangalore who served as the team CTO, says it was Arjun’s relatives who noted the potential of exoskeletons but their prohibitive price point. “Moreover, those exoskeletons could not help patients with an injury higher up the spinal cord due to lack of upper body strength,” he says. Not one to give up, the family rallied a team and raised more than $1 million to build a patented third-generation exoskeleton that could help people with any kind of injury to stand up and walk again.
The device is a robotic system powered by a NI cRIO controller and driven by a Windows Surface tablet. The software platform leverages Azure Web, Storage, Azure SQL and Azure Functions. The robotic device streams IoT data through the Azure IoT Hub and Stream Analytics makes it possible to monitor the robot behavior in real-time. The actual gait profile and customized rehabilitation are controlled by a proprietary machine learning algorithm that is being trained on Azure ML.
The device is currently in a premier hospital in Bangalore for patient rehabilitation and data collection for different types of injuries. “Our vision is to be able to provide highly personalized rehabilitation from different types of injuries and enable people from different walks of life to not only to get back their mobility, but also to be able to lead their own life with dignity,” Praveen says. “And we wish to do this in a very affordable manner so that it can impact the lives of a much wider base of people affected by different injuries.”
Praveen says the exoskeleton team enjoyed large community support from the early days of the project. Doctors started stepping in to provide guidance on how to rehabilitate patients with different injuries, and retired officials came forward to provide insights on how the government could support this initiative on a larger scale.
Moreover, institutes like IIIT Bangalore came forward to assist on the research around machine learning and gait algorithms. “In fact, the technology community stepped in and offered crowdsourced data collection for human gait to enable us to create a gait profile baseline for our algorithms,” Praveen says.
“This initiative could not have progressed at this pace without the strong support of the community around us,” he says.
Editor’s Note: Microsoft MVP has used an alias for the patient to protect their anonymity.