The first exoskeleton was invented in 1980 by Nicholas Yagin, in Russia, which an assembled set of apparatus assisting in walking, jumping and running. Ever since its inception, exoskeleton has captured the awe and imagination of researchers and the robotics industry, but it gained popularity fairly late, only a few years ago.
The advancements in the robotics technologies have been on a rapid growth which led to the emergence of robotic exoskeletons. Exoskeletons are defined as robotic wearable devices, providing augmentation to the body parts, rehabilitation of the dysfunctional sensory movements, and assistance to the disabled people.
There has been an overwhelming need and interest in this domain of robotics and researchers are contemplating to incorporate sensing and assistive technologies into therapy for neurological disorders such as stroke, central nervous system disorder, and spinal cord injury. This has led to an increase in the demand for exoskeletons for rehabilitation and assistive applications.
In comparison with the conventional method of manual therapy, exoskeleton has way more advantages as it is capable of providing intensive training for patients, improved functional outcomes, and better quantitative feedback. Besides this, exoskeletons find their utilization in providing novel solutions to other emerging industries including industrial, defense, and commercial, for a varied set of applications, such as assistance, sports, and body parts support.
The commercialization of exoskeletons will be a long wait and thus, the wearable robotic exoskeleton market will take several years to reach its full market potential. The commercial exoskeletons that are currently available tend to be cumbersome and slow. Furthermore, the cost of these available powered exoskeletons in the market is very high as compared to the passive ones. There is a ray of hope as the constant innovations and development in the technology is paving the way for cost-effective, user-friendly, and reliable exoskeletons.
The global wearable robotic exoskeleton market is witnessing a tremendous growth rate and this has been a result of machine intelligence taking over human intelligence in the defense industry, the rise in the demand for rehabilitation application, and a rapidly growing old-age population. The market reported a revenue of $96 million in 2016, with healthcare industry accommodating for the highest revenue by 2026. However, the market is also facing some major challenges, which are stringent government regulations for exoskeletons in the healthcare industry and high selling price of powered exoskeletons. But, with the introduction of 3D printed electronic components & structure, durable batteries, and soft actuators, among others, the growth of the market will be boosted as these technologies will help in the development of cost-effective and affordable exoskeletons. This will facilitate the utilization of exoskeletons for varied applications and increase the competition in the market in future.
The healthcare industry contributes a higher share in the market as a substantial number of companies in the market are developing and manufacturing powered exoskeletons for medical assistance and therapy. Meanwhile, exoskeletons for defense were mainly tested by the companies in the year 2016, as a part of research and development initiatives. However, the involvement of key manufacturers and defense organizations to develop efficient exoskeletons for military purposes is expected to drive the growth of the market.
Geographically, Europe will hold the highest market share during 2017 and 2026, followed by Asia-Pacific, North America and the Rest of the World (Row) respectively. Europe's dominance in this domain comes from the developments in active exoskeletons for the healthcare industry in the region. The emerging startups in the market are also keen to invest into the development of passive exoskeletons for applications such as back support, skiing, arm support, leg support, upper body fixed rehabilitation, and military. The countries in the region have contributed 41% of the overall healthcare spending worldwide to robotics exoskeletons domain.
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