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Exoskeleton startup wants to slap robot arms on schoolkids

For educational purposes, of course

Exoskeleton startup Auxivo is aiming to encourage the next generation of cyborgs with the launch of an educational kit dubbed the EduExo Pro, a complete exoskeleton for one arm.

Founded in 2019 as a spin-out from the Rehabilitation Engineering Lab at ETH Zürich, Auxivo's industrial products – the LiftSuit and CarrySuit, with the more powerful CarrySuit Advanced on the way – are designed to assist workers with lifting and carrying tasks.

Its EduExo range, by contrast, focuses less on functionality in the workplace and more on making the entire concept of exoskeletons mainstream through education. A crowdfunding campaign launched in May 2017 brought the original EduExo to life: a low-cost, 3D-printed partial exoskeleton driven by an Arduino microcontroller.

The EduExo Pro goes a stage further. "While the classic EduExo is only an elbow exoskeleton connected to the upper and lower arm," Auxivo's Volker Bartenbach explained, "the EduExo Pro is a complete arm exoskeleton connected to your torso, upper arm, and lower arm. With its 6Nm motor in the elbow and a metal spring in the shoulder, the EduExo Pro can provide you with more support to make it an exciting learning experience."

Like its predecessor, the EduExo Pro is programmed through an Arduino microcontroller and comes with a 10-chapter educational manual – up from the seven of the original model – which includes new material on using the device's built-in electromyograph (EMG) sensor and interfacing the exoskeleton with the Unity 3D engine.

"The EduExo Pro exoskeleton kit aims to bring this 21st-century technology into STEM classrooms and university classes worldwide," Bartenbach claimed, "and inspire more people to learn about this fascinating combination of robotics and biology."

Pricing, however, could be an issue in getting the EduExo Pro into schools. Unlike the low-cost original EduExo, which was available as a set of 3D-printable files and assembly instructions for those who didn't want to buy a complete kit, the EduExo Pro comes with a hefty price tag of CHF 1,090 (around £855 excluding VAT) – though discounts are available for those early adopters willing to take the risk of crowdfunding the project.

It is also unclear whether the company has sized the device, which includes rigid sections for the upper and lower arms and a "textile interface" for the upper body, to cover its target market of both "high school and college students" - to say nothing of the makers, hobbyists, teachers, and professors to whom the company is also hoping to sell the gadget.

The company is currently raising funds for production via crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and claims that, if funding is successful, it will ship all rewards by the end of the year. ®

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