Amazon's Alexa can be used to voice control this exoskeleton

For most of us, virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa are time- and effort-saving technologies for when we are too lazy to get up and find a notebook to make a list, or find the particular music track we want to listen to. A new partnership involving Toronto-based medical device and robotics company Bionik Laboratories is using Alexa in a more life-changing way: As an interface for controlling robot exoskeletons for people with mobility difficulties.

Using commands like “Alexa, let’s walk to the kitchen,” the use of Amazon’s Echo and Alexa tech with Bionik’s Arke lower body exoskeleton could be a rehabilitation and assistive technology game-changer for those who need it.

The Arke exoskeleton works using a combination of smart sensors, inertial measurement units, and artificial intelligence to allow users to walk around. Adding in voice-activated smart technology simply means incorporating another useful interface element — like adding a mouse to a computer that already has a keyboard. Alexa integration will allow Arke users to perform actions like quickly getting to their feet simply by saying, “Alexa, I’m ready to stand” or “Alexa, I’m ready to walk.” It can also be used to modify parameters like stride length when a person is walking, or to check how much battery is remaining.

alexa voice control exoskeleton arke
Bionik Laboratories
Bionik Laboratories

“In building Arke, we had one goal in mind — to empower the user to take back their mobility and regain the ability to complete tasks that the rest of us deem normal, like walking to the refrigerator or going to get the mail,” Michal Prywata, co-founder, chief operating officer and director of Bionik, said in a statement. “This pairing of our robotic technologies with the power of Amazon’s Alexa further pushes the boundaries of what technology can do within the home healthcare industry, and we believe we will help many impaired individuals regain the mobility they once lost.”

It is not the only example smart-assistive technology in this field. Other companies are developing rival exoskeletons and autonomous high-tech wheelchairs. It is also not yet perfect since there are no onboard microphones on the Arke, so you need to be within striking distance of an Echo to use it. Still, this is totally a step in the right direction. Pun very much intended.

Smart Home

5 lessons from Amazon’s head-spinning, head-splitting Alexa fiesta

Yesterday’s surprise Alexa announcement was a deluge of fast-paced devices and software announcements. Here are five takeaways from the event (hint: one is a prediction of Amazon world domination).
Cars

Amazon Alexa can now hitch a ride in any car with Echo Auto

At its massive hardware event, Amazon unveiled Echo Auto, a dashboard-mounted device that adds Alexa to any car. It's one of myriad ways Amazon is trying to integrate Alexa with cars.
Home Theater

Amazon’s horde of new Alexa-powered audio gear includes subwoofer, new amplifier

Amazon's quest to take over the world with its Alexa voice assistant just got a bit closer to realization, as the company has unleashed an army of new audio devices. We've got the low-down on all of them here.
Smart Home

That's a lotta Alexa. Amazon drops smart subs, plugs, even a microwave

Amazon's hardware announcement likely means a whole bunch of new Amazon Alexa gadgets. From a microwave to stereo equipment, here are our guesses on which devices we'll see, which could total as many as eight.
Emerging Tech

Robot jellyfish could be used to patrol fragile coral reefs

Could schools of robotic jellyfish soon be patrolling the world’s oceans, monitoring fragile environments such as coral reefs? A team of United States researchers certainly thinks so.
Emerging Tech

Versatile robotic skin gives stuffed horse, other inanimate objects some giddyup

Researchers at Yale University have developed a new sensor-packed robot skin that can be wrapped around inanimate objects, such as toys, to transform them into functioning robots.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Click-to-brew beer, comfy headlamps, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

JackRabbot 2 is Stanford’s friendly new campus-roaming social robot

JackRabbot 2 is a robot developed by researchers at Stanford University -- designed to navigate around the campus, while carrying out friendly interactions with the humans around it.
Emerging Tech

New sustainable plan to mitigate climate change involves… a hot dog cooker?

Chemists have demonstrated a new, energy-efficient method of pulling carbon dioxide directly from the air. The secret ingredients? An air humidifier and a solar-powered hot dog cooker.
Emerging Tech

Removing ‘zombie cells’ in the brain could help battle the effects of dementia

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have demonstrated how the removal of so-called "zombie cells" can help reverse the effects of dementia-style cognitive decline in mice. Here's what they did.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s planet hunter satellite gets first hit in its search for another Earth

NASA's planet hunter satellite TESS has discovered a new Earth-like planet. At only 62 light-years distant, the new find is much closer than the Kepler Mission's 2015 exoplanet discovery -- that one was 155 light-years distant.
Emerging Tech

From flying for fun to pro filmmaking, these are the best drones you can buy

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

New mask-mounted head-up display gives Navy combat divers tactical advantage

Divers are often forced to work in low-light conditions where visibility is limited or all-but nonexistent. In order to help solve this problem, the Navy has developed a new head-up display known as Shadow Nav.
Emerging Tech

Roll over, SpotMini — here comes the ALMA robo-dog

If two robo-dogs met on the street, would one try to sniff the mechanical components at the rear of the other? We have no idea, but with at least two different rob-dogs now making real advances, we may soon find out.