Healthy Living

Students Develop Exoskeleton App to Help Patients with Muscular Dystrophy

Students Develop Exoskeleton App to Help Patients with Muscular Dystrophy

In today’s society, it is the norm to dismiss the digital age. It isn’t unusual to hear people complain about the amount of time kids spend on their phones, or the lack of human interaction, or those horrible Snapchat filters that just seem to get worse and worse. (Really, more dog ears?)

However, what often gets overlooked is the incredible impact that technology can have on people's lives. Technology has moved society into a place it could even help people who would have been bed-ridden get around with  tremendous ease.

No one can explain the great benefit of technology better than Zach Smith, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which is a genetic disorder characterized by aggressive muscle degeneration. His inability to fully control his muscles and his necessary use of a wheelchair allowed for him to be the perfect candidate for a computer-controlled exoskeleton arm.

Zach was chosen to join a program that gave him an exoskeleton.

After Zach had been picked for this exciting program, Talem Technologies granted Zach an X-Ar exoskeleton. This exoskeleton allows for him to do several daily tasks, like drink from a glass and turn on a light switch. It was an amazing improvement, but through Zach's participation, Talem Technologies discovered a difficult challenge: Keeping everything leveled. However, in response to this issue, the technology generation came to the rescue in the form of a team of Michigan State University students. 

Talem Technologies and Urban Science, which is a Detroit-based consulting firm, worked closely with a College of Engineering at MSU team of computer science students who created a phone app. This app allows for Zach, who is a resident of Orlando, Florida, to get the most use possible out of his bionic-looking arms.

Mobile Maestro, which is available for iPhones and Android devices alike, was developed by Mustafa Jebara, Dane Rosseter, Samantha Oldenburg, Alex Wuillame, and Shun Yan. This app conveniently puts the exoskelton’s controls on the user’s cell phone.

The Mobile Maestro app is very easy to operate. With a light touch or voice commands, the user can control the exoskeleton. Using the phone’s gyroscope technology (which aids in balance), the app can be set to an auto level setting. The MSU team was especially excited about being able to offer this technology. In addition to the gyroscope technology, another option on the app lets the user lock the exoskeleton in order to let the user and their wheelchair through tight spaces. Smith uses this option often to get through doorways with his chair.

Read on to see just how this app can truly benefit muscular dystrophy patients.

Photo source: Michigan State University