Powered Exoskeleton Race
Pilots with complete thoracic or lumbar Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) will be equipped with actuated exoskeletal devices, which will enable them to walk along a particular race course. The course will have the following tasks and elements:
- A slope (ramp) will be used to walk up and down. The slope will be 10°, which corresponds to 18% inclination; the slope will be approximately 3 m long, and 1.25 m wide.
- A staircase will be used to ascent and descend steps. The staircase will have approximately 5 steps. Step rise and run refer to the international standard (approx. 17 cm rise and 28 cm run). The upper platform should not be too high so as to reduce the risk of injury in case of falls. Handrails will be mounted for safety reasons, but pilots are encouraged not to use them but their crutches. At least 2 people (“stair spotters”) will stand at the end of the descending part of the stairs to catch pilots in case they fall.
- Stepping on pillars, like on stones in a riverbed. Pillars can have different heights, but should not be too high (because of safety, and crutch lengths).
- Teeter-Totter, i.e., a ramp with a pivot in the middle, like a seesaw; the slope will be not too high to minimize risk of falling.
- Walking along a narrow path or beam.
- There will be a certain passage, where the pilots will have to pick up a weight (about 5 kg, can look like a shopping bag), walk a short distance (about 5 m) and put the weight down at the end of the passage. During this passage the pilots can carry the weight as they prefer, e.g. on the back, in the arms, or connect to the device.
- There will be a short slalom course with sharp corners. The slalom is equipped with real life obstacles (trees, mannequins) that require stop-and-go motions, sharp turns and zigzagging between obstacles.
- At the end, there will be a straight sprint lane of approximately 10 m length. There will be a clear finishing line at the end.
Overall, the course will be designed so that pilots will be able to finish within 5-6 min. Assuming an average walking speed of about 1-2 km/h, this would mean entire walking distance of approximately 100 m. (If the course length is significantly less than 100 m, the course will be repeated several times until the desired length/duration will be reached.)
- The pilots will have to perform the tasks sequentially (one after the other) along the course. In general, there will be no junctions, or branches, however, a pilot may have to skip a task and branch off to perform a penalty loop.
- At least two opponents will be able to start simultaneously, on the same or two identical parallel courses. Depending on the number of participating pilots, rank will be determined by a “knock-out” competition or by time measurement (measuring, scoring and comparing of time).
- If a pilot will decide to skip a task, because she/he or the device will not be capable of performing the task, a penalty will be imposed, requesting the pilot to walk along a short penalty loop. Penalty loops will be located at several places along the course. The pilot will have to take the earliest possible loop after she/he will get the penalty imposed.
- The pilots are recommended to use crutches or canes. However, they will not be allowed to perform a swing through gait, with both legs in parallel. At least one leg has to be on the ground. Running, however, is allowed, with a short flight phase, but only with legs in typical counter-directional motion. This means that crutches will be allowed as balance aids, but not as full body weight support devices. If this rule will be violated, the pilot will have to perform a short penalty loop.
- When a pilot will fall and need external help to stand up, a penalty loop (short loop) will have to be performed.
Inclusion Criteria for the Pilots
Participating pilots must fulfill the following inclusion criteria
- Spinal cord injured pilots will be accepted, who have a thoracic or lumbar lesion, which lead to leg paralysis.
- ASIA A or B, with a complete loss of motor function (http://www.sci-info-pages.com/levels.html). The pilots will have to give testimony about the completeness of their lesion. A stimulator-based test will be developed and applied to confirm completeness of the lesion.
- The lesions can be spastic or non-spastic
- Pilots must have sufficient voluntary control of trunk, arm and neck to be able to keep the trunk and head upright and use the arms to hold crutches.
- Pilots must be at least 18 years old.
Inclusion Criteria for the Technology
The following criteria should apply for the exoskeleton technology:
- The device must be worn and controlled by the pilot (by any kind of input device or gait intention detection strategy).
- Load transfer to the ground via wheels or rolling contact will not be allowed
- Actuation will be free; also passive devices will be allowed, e.g. such that work with passive springs or cables, which can be used to wind up the system and store kinetic energy.
- Functional electrical stimulation can be added to hybridize the exoskeleton. Surface and implanted stimulation technologies will be allowed. To ensure that technology is safe, that safety standards are met and that any health risks are avoided, participating teams must have expert approval (e.g. CE, FDA) or an approval from a clinical expert if it is a development technology.
- It will not be allowed to change the device or parts of it within and between the courses. It will also not be allowed to maintain the device during the competition.
- Combustion machines will not be allowed.
- Limitation of the weight will not be necessary as performance decreases with increasing weight.
- Power and computer must be worn by the pilot or integrated in the exoskeleton. Any remote connection to the stationary team members will be forbidden.
- The pilot’s team must fulfill predetermined safety criteria about the technology that is going to be used during the race. The participating pilot and team must commit to the rules and inclusion/exclusion criteria of the device and prove technical function and safety prior to the race by submitting photographs with longshots and clear close-up views, videos, certification of local boards, risk analysis etc.