Knee injuries are common pitfalls for amateur and professional athletes alike, as the human desire to compete pushes our bodies to the limit. And when a knee injury does occur, it can be debilitating. This is a problem Canadian startup Spring Loaded Technology is looking to address with the launch of what it’s touting as the world’s first bionic knee brace.
The lightweight Levitation knee brace is similar to other knee braces on the market, except this one stores kinetic energy when a user bends their knee, so they receive an extra boost and support when they straighten their leg again. VentureBeat was given a hands-on demo of the device at Dublin Web Summit a few months back, though we never actually tried the brace during any activities.
Though other “bionic body parts,” including knee and leg exoskeletons, have been developed over the years, the Levitation is designed to be the first consumer-friendly bionic brace in terms of both price and function. Chris Cowper-Smith, scientist and CEO at Spring Loaded Technology, has been working with his team on the technology behind Levitation for the past three years. “Along the way we tried metal springs, polymers, and even gas springs, none of which were quite right,” said Cowper-Smith. “Eventually, we developed a new type of liquid spring that allowed us to keep our brace light, powerful, and compact. We wanted to create a powerful spring-loaded knee brace that was affordable and could benefit everyone.”
Powered by a mechanical hinge, the Levitation is constructed from ultra thin, lightweight carbon fiber, and is available in various sizes, from extra small (XS) through to extra-extra large (XXL). Given its modest size, it can also be worn under clothing.
Though Levitation is designed for those with existing or ongoing knee injuries, it is also aimed at preventing injuries by protecting and supporting the knee. Additionally, those simply looking to boost their performance could use this — though I would imagine elite athletes would be prohibited from using it in official competitions. That said, there would be nothing to stop them from using these devices during training.
The Levitation represents the company’s first consumer product, though it has previously signed a contract to provide a military-grade version to the Canadian Forces. The Upshot has additional reinforcements for users who will put significant wear and tear on the brace.
Pre-orders for the Levitation opened on Indiegogo yesterday, and the company is already halfway toward meeting its $75,000 funding goal. However, the bionic brace will not be cheap. The full retail cost when it goes to market will be $2,500, though on pre-order you can get one for the modest price of $1,200 as one of the early birds. Shipping is expected to kick off in June, 2016.