Building Stronger Humans | TC Sessions Robotics 2018 | Summary and Q&A

May 11, 2018
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Building Stronger Humans | TC Sessions Robotics 2018

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In this video, the speaker discusses the development of robotic devices that can be worn by people in various industries to reduce the risk of injuries and increase productivity. They showcase different robotic devices, including the back axe, leg x, and shoulder x, which help users perform tasks with less strain on their bodies. The speaker also introduces a spinal cord injury exoskeleton device that is currently undergoing FDA evaluation. The goal is to make these devices more accessible and affordable for consumers in the future.

Questions & Answers

Q: What types of industries can benefit from wearing these robotic devices?

The robotic devices are designed for industries such as construction, warehousing, and airlines, where workers engage in repetitive movements. These devices aim to reduce the risk of injuries among workers and make them less tired, resulting in increased productivity.

Q: What motivated the speaker to develop these robotic devices?

The speaker started in the field of robotics and witnessed the long time it takes for robotic technology to come to fruition. They realized that humans are already intelligent and skilled, but providing them with additional strength through machines can improve their performance and reduce the risk of injuries. The thesis behind these devices is to augment human intelligence and strength to enhance their capabilities in everyday jobs.

Q: Can you explain how the back axe device works?

The back axe device is a simple wearable device that is worn by individuals like the co-founder, Wayne. It minimizes the forces at the L5 S1 region of the back, which is prone to injuries when performing bending motions. This allows the wearer to pick up heavier objects with less strain on their back. The device can be worn all day and quickly removed if needed.

Q: Are these robotic devices capable of increasing the amount of weight a person can lift?

Yes, these devices can augment the wearer's strength. For example, if a person uses these devices to pick up 15 pounds, it would feel like they are lifting only 15 pounds, even if the actual weight is higher. Experimental studies have shown that these devices can reduce forces by 60%, making it easier for workers to perform tasks without becoming fatigued.

Q: Can multiple robotic devices be worn together?

Yes, the modular design of these devices allows users to wear multiple modules simultaneously. For example, Nathan is shown wearing the back axe, leg x, and shoulder x devices together. Wearing multiple devices can further enhance the capabilities and reduce the strain on different parts of the body.

Q: What is the price range for these robotic devices?

Currently, the prices for these devices range from $4,000 to $5,000 per module. The goal is to keep the cost low, so they are not as expensive as other robotic devices that cost tens of thousands of dollars. The aim is to make them affordable, with a target price of around $15,000, similar to a powered wheelchair.

Q: How long does the battery last in these devices?

These devices are designed to be passive in terms of power. They do not require continuous battery power for locomotion and strength. The leg x device, for example, uses two motors that communicate with each other and differentiate between walking and other motions. The battery dying is not a concern, and the device can still function even if the battery is turned off or removed.

Q: Are these devices covered by insurance?

Currently, there is no reimbursement code or established insurance coverage for exoskeleton devices like these. However, the focus is on bringing down the cost of these devices to a level where they are comparable to powered wheelchairs, which are often covered by insurance. The aim is to make them accessible and affordable for consumers, regardless of insurance coverage.

Q: What are the biggest challenges in developing these devices?

The challenges include FDA approval, securing funding, and ensuring consumer acceptance. FDA approval is necessary for these devices to be deemed safe and effective for use. Funding is required to continue the research, development, and manufacturing processes. It is also important to ensure that consumers find these devices comfortable and cost-effective, as well as educating insurance providers about the potential benefits.

Q: What does the future look like for these robotic devices?

In the next few years, these devices are expected to be used extensively in rehabilitation centers. The focus will be on improving stability and making the devices more suitable for individuals to use independently. The goal is to eventually bring rehabilitation technology to people's homes, allowing them to continue their rehabilitation process without relying on transportation to a center. The speaker also mentions developments for children and a vision of becoming a provider of bionics components for consumer products.


The development of wearable robotic devices aims to reduce the risk of injuries and increase productivity for workers in different industries. These devices, such as the back axe, leg x, and shoulder x, allow individuals to perform tasks with less strain on their bodies. The goal is to make these devices affordable and accessible to consumers at the cost of a powered wheelchair. The challenges currently faced include FDA approval, funding, and insurance coverage. The future of these devices involves extensive use in rehabilitation centers and eventually bringing rehabilitation technology to people's homes.

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