Jean-Louis Constanza is helping his son get back on his feet, one step at a time.
His son, 16-year-old Oscar Constanza, has a genetic neurological condition that keeps his nerves from sending enough signals to his legs, making it nearly impossible for him to walk.
Although Oscar is able to walk a little with assistance, he craved more independence and freedom. His frustrations led his dad to a brilliant idea that would not only change Oscar’s life, but also the lives of people around the world!
“One day, he [Oscar] said to me, ‘Dad, you’re a robotics engineer, why don’t you make me a robot that will help me to walk?'” Jean said.
And so began the creation of Wandercraft, a company dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities walk. They do this by crafting exoskeletons that are designed to stimulate body movement.
“There was three of us who were the founders of Wandercraft, which was founded in 2012,” Jean said. “Two of the founders, including myself, have loved ones in our family in wheelchairs.”
Although there are several companies producing similar technology, progress needs to be made before any of them are ready for everyday use. To make that happen, Wandercraft is working on making their exoskeletons lighter and easier to use. In the meantime, the benefits of these products can already be seen.
“It’s new for me because before to walk, I’ve always had assistance and now I no longer need assistance, so I feel independent,” Oscar said.
Oscar isn’t the only one benefiting from Wandercraft’s technology. So far, they’ve sold exoskeletons to dozens of hospitals in France and the U.S. for about $176,000 a piece.
They have also given several people with disabilities the chance to try the technology out, including Kevin Piette.
Ten years ago, Kevin was in a biking accident that left him with a broken spine and an inability to walk. But with the power of the robotic exoskeleton, he’s able to carry out everyday tasks in his apartment!
“I’m convinced that there are plenty of people who would like to be able to gain back this autonomy or at least have the advantages of being upright be it one, two, three hours per day … I think there are already huge benefits for the body also emotionally and socially,” Kevin said. “There are plenty of benefits to having it in your home and in the future having it outside, of course. I think that will please a lot of people, that’s for sure.”
It’s going to take a lot of work and time to get Wandercraft’s products ready for everyday use, but Jean believes the effort is more than worth it.
“That’s the first thing to give back to people, and I think we owe them that,” he said. “Because I think before making autonomous cars we should have autonomous walking.”
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