Exoskeleton has been undergoing significant technology enhancements in recent years. It is becoming the emerging wearable technology that people could rely on and experience life-changing differences.
Dr. Ye Ding, the founder and CEO of Yrobot, is aiming to develop novel wearable robotic devices to improve the quality of life for seniors and the disabled. He also serves as an advisor at AI Innovation Center, Peking University.
Ding received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2018 and then worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Harvard Biodesign Laboratory for six months. His research focused on designing the next generation of wearable robotic devices to enhance human motion and develope smart algorithms which enable exosuits to automatically adapt to the wearers’ gaits.
As part of his Ph.D. work, Ding led the development of a novel Bayesian optimization control algorithm that intended to individualize the assistance strategy based on the wearer’s biological performance. He aimed to minimize noises and delays and search for the optimal control settings in a short amount of time. The algorithm was applied on a hip extension assistance device and achieved a significant improvement of more than 60% metabolic reduction. More importantly, it was time-efficient enough to make use of the real-time human physiology responses to adjust the assistance profile.
It illustrated potentials on how machine learning can adaptively assist people with different movement disorders. The work was published in Science Robotics and was ranked among the top ten robotic technologies of 2018 by Science Robotics.
In addition, Ding’s work directly contributed to a soft exosuit that aimed to aid stroke patients and enhance individual mobilities in daily life activities, which later became the first FDA-approved soft exosuit.
In 2019, Ding founded Yrobot. The company is developing a smart muscle armor that acts as an external muscle. According to Ding, the armor would “know the wearer’s intention." It is different from traditional exoskeletons as it is fully autonomous, more effective in increasing muscle strength, and lightweight and small enough to be used in day-to-day life.
With the world’s population aging, the percentage of people with disabilities is projected to increase, and the insufficiency of rehabilitation and elderly care resources will become more severe. With this in mind, Ding envisioned Yrobot as a company to help the aging to perform regular activities of daily life and help the disabled, like neurologically impaired patients, to speed up rehabilitation.
Under Ding’s leadership, Yrobot grew rapidly in the past two years and raised more than $20 million with an $80 million valuation. Flextronics International Ltd., the world’s largest medical device manufacturer, is collaborating with Yrobot to manufacture its products. According to Ding, Huashan hospital and Jiangsu Province Hospital, two well-recognized hospitals in China for rehabilitation, already started clinical trials with Yrobot. The company aims to serve a million people within the next 5 years.
“Trained as an engineer, I always consider how I can use technology effectively to help people. With over 15 years’ devotion to robotics research, I hope to transform scientific discoveries to achieve a positive social impact,” said Ding.