When robotics creates better lives

NSCL conducting the user test for Vilje Bionics. Photo by: Martin Bogstrand, Vilje Bionics
NSCL conducting the user test for Vilje Bionics. Photo by: Martin Bogstrand, Vilje Bionics

Norwegian Smart Care Lab (NSCL) led a user test for Vilje Bionics in collaboration with I4Helse in Grimstad.

Text: Jofrid Åsland, Norwegian Smart Care Cluster

Photos: Martin Bogstrand, Vilje Bionics

In this test, users were able to test the prototype of the motorized exoskeleton for people with impaired or lost motor function in the arms. The exoskeleton assists movement in the shoulder, elbow and rotation of the wrist.

– For a prototype, this is a very well-functioning product. For people with impaired function in the arms, this is magical. We shed a few tears that day. It was so powerful to see how technology can be so meaningful, says Marit Hagland, head of the Norwegian Smart Care Lab.

Why are we testing with users?

– We learned a lot from this user test, not only from the users, but from how NSCL works with the users, and rigs a good and safe test scenario. This was a positive experience for everyone involved, says Martin Bogstrand, commercial manager at Vilje Bionics.

In the development work, the company has worked closely with users, and all of them wanted test the product before giving their feedback on the function. Together with NSCL and I4Helse, this became possible, and users with several degrees of disability in the arms got to try the motorized exoskeleton.

– We especially remember one of the users who participated in the test. Her arm was paralyzed because of tick bites ten years ago. Using our aid, she managed to lift her arm herself. It was a special moment, and it is experiences like this that motivates us, says Asmund Kvam Kollbye, product manager at Vilje Bionics.

Together with the rest of their team, Martin and Asmund work every day to improve the quality of life of user groups with disabilities, and the users who see the possibility of a more independent life are positive.

– For us, it is unthinkable to develop our product without having the users closely connected to the process. When we are going to develop an aid that will restore lost function in the arm, we must make some simplifications compared to normal function. What these simplifications should be, only the users can answer, says Kvam Kollbye.

User testing is one of the methods the company uses combined with interviews and surveys.

Vilje Bionics
Photo by: Martin Bogstrand, Vilje Bionics

Easier everyday life with robotics

Simple is often better, and perhaps this also applies to robotics.

– The product of Vilje Bionics is based on known technology, used in a simple and user-friendly way. I think the key to success lies in not making the concept too advanced, says the leader of NSCL.

Through the user test, Hagland has gained good insight into the prototype and is pleased that the company is planning more tests together with Norwegian Smart Care Lab on the way to launch in the market.

– The technology we work with has existed for 30 years. I think the right time has come to use this in the health care system. Our assistive device will help the user to a more independent life. And nurses will have more time for other important tasks. In this way the interaction between healthcare and technology creates better lives for the user, says Kvam Kollbye.