BLOG

Humotech’s 2021 Year in Review: Working Together to Embrace Change

December 16, 2021

The constant state of rapid change in the world has certainly kept things interesting at Humotech in 2021. It has inspired us to become more agile and double down on our commitment to teamwork and collaboration. That said, we’re pleased to share our second annual year in review with you. Read on for our proudest accomplishments and plans for the year ahead!

Customers In the Spotlight

Helping people find new ways to innovate is at the heart of what we do. This year, we developed Caplex systems for several new research labs (both at home and abroad), including our first European customers at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Leuven, Belgium, and our first customers at a private hospital, Gillette Children’s Speciality Healthcare in Minnesota who are using Caplex to study cerebral palsy in children. 

Continuing to broaden our reach has also involved venturing into the commercial sector, a whole new arena where Caplex can be utilized. The rapid prototyping of wearable devices our technology offers is a natural fit for the fast-paced, product-driven nature of commercial R&D. And we’re thrilled to help interested clients explore new possibilities, including an athletics company and our partners at Vanderbilt University via their spinoff, HeroWear (the first spin-off company to involve Humotech). HeroWear has developed a real-world exosuit to prevent injuries in the workplace and has successfully brought their product to market.

Coming Soon: the Open-Source Leg

Humotech’s customers, partners, and the broader O&P and robotics communities continue to inspire us daily. An exciting new development on the horizon is our partnership with the Open-Source Leg project, led by Elliot Rouse, PhD, at the University of Michigan in collaboration with the University of Texas at Dallas, Carnegie Mellon University, and others. 

The “OSL” is a completely open-source and free-to-copy robotic prosthetic leg that was created to lower the barrier for conducting research. It provides a unifying tool to study control strategies for robotic prostheses, which is critically needed to drive development. Anyone can access the files and build the OSL, but some may not have the time or capability to build the leg from scratch. Humotech plans to provide a fully pre-assembled off-the-shelf version that can be used immediately, with goals to integrate the leg into the Caplex system.

Learn more about the Humotech-OSL partnership.

The Open-Source Leg is a platform to accelerate the research & development of control strategies for robotic knee & ankle prostheses. Image credit: Michigan Engineering, University of Michigan

Product Release Highlights

This year, we’ve been laser-focused on making the Caplex system more modular, more customizable, and more user-friendly while improving performance. That’s led to significant advancements to the Control System (thanks to the excellent feedback from Caplex customers) and optimizing several of our end effectors with adjustable components to accommodate a greater variety of users.

We also released the BCK-001 Portable Caplex System, marking a major milestone in Caplex development. The first portable version of our system provides high-performance emulation in an integrated, lightweight design that can be worn as a backpack or mounted for benchtop operation. Users can explore a whole new range of capabilities for testing in or outside of the lab, including in the outdoors. 

In the Pipeline

We have plenty in store for 2022, and we even launched a new “Products In Development” page to share early versions of products with the community. Here’s a sneak peek at a few products and R&D projects that we’re too excited about to keep under wraps:

EXO-006. Another product in development to watch for is the EXO-006 2-DoA – a high-torque ankle exoskeleton much like our recently-upgraded EXO-001 but capable of both dorsiflexion and plantarflexion. The same device will be able to be used on either foot simply by swapping out different shoes.

The Caplex EXO-006 2-DoA ankle exoskeleton

EXO-007. We originally developed the EXO-006 to enable another new R&D endeavor – Humotech Warfighter Ankle-exo-brace for Recovery & Endurance (H-WARE). Initially funded by a Phase 1 SBIR award, the focus of the project is to develop a simple customizable exoskeleton that can speed rehabilitation for people with achilles tendinopathy, a condition that adversely affects many military members as well as civilian athletes. We’ll be talking more about this technology in the year ahead, so stay tuned!

News from the Lab

Despite setbacks from the pandemic, operations have been humming along at Humotech HQ. We’ve kept demos running (both in-person and virtual) and plan to ramp those up in the coming year, as well as look to grow our team. We’ve also launched a brand new website with many cool new features, including a research library to house publications that we’ve co-authored with our scientific collaborators. We even got the chance to participate in local events hosted by the Pittsburgh Robotics Network (where we debuted the Portable Caplex System), a force for good helping to bring the robotics community together throughout our city.

Of course, the year also brought with it plenty of logistical challenges which have forced us to get creative and learn how to adapt to rapid changes. A big thank you to our customers and suppliers for your patience and faith as we work through many supply chain difficulties.

Debuting the Portable Caplex System at the Pittsburgh Robotics Network press event this June.

Publications We Think Are Awesome

We are always thrilled to see research from our customers and collaborators achieve recognition. This year the O&P Almanac also covered some of the work we’ve been involved in, helping to raise awareness in the broader clinical O&P community. Here are a few articles we recommend checking out:

Happy Holidays to all and thanks for a great year – see you in 2022!

P.S. We’ll be winding things down in the office for the last couple of weeks of the year, but if you need anything, wearable machines or otherwise, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line.