Upper-Body Exoskeleton

Physical Sciences : Mechanical

Available for licensing


  • Ashish Deshpande , Mechanical Engineering

Background/unmet need

Physical therapists are continually developing improved techniques for providing controlled resistance that are focused on helping patients recovering from surgery or stroke to regain as close to normal range of motion as possible. As the general population ages and continues to maintain active lifestyles, musculo-skeletal injuries will be more prevalent, driving demand for improved therapeutic processes.

Invention Description

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a wearable robotic exoskeleton, designed to provide structured motion control that is completely programmable for use as recuperative therapy for upper-body musculo-skeletal injuries and stroke patients. 

The robotic exoskeleton is designed to assist patients during rehabilitation by providing programmable support for back, shoulder, arm, and wrist movement. It can be programmed so that the patient is moved with little or no effort, or to provide resistance to the prescribed motion.

The device provides assistance and resistance to the wearer and is designed to be employed during rehabilitation therapy sessions for stroke patients. It will allow therapists to apply precise movement and forces to the subject. Robotic exoskeleton (human-worn) systems provide a promising avenue for assisting stroke patients to recover motor function and for easing the burden of labor-intensive, highly repetitive, and therefore costly conventional physical therapy.


  • Safe and comfortable interactions with the patient
  • A large number of joints supported, allowing for rehabilitation across the entire upper body
  • Position and force control capabilities for more effective therapeutic use
  • Fast control scheme for safety and performance


  • Assistance and resistance during therapy
  • Fast-acting DC motors as actuators
  • Large number of joints supported
  • Shoulder kinematics maintained with five motors at each shoulder
  • Very high frequency control loops

Market potential/applications

Market research firm IBISWorld reports physical therapy as a $30B market in the United States in 2013. The highly fragmented market consists of over 91,000 businesses employing over 300,000 people and growing at a rate of 4.5% per year. 

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype

IP Status

  • 1 U.S. patent application filed