Kathleen O'Donnell

How wearable robots are transforming human mobility

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About Kathleen O'Donnell

Kathleen O’Donnell combines backgrounds in biomedical engineering and industrial design to drive development of engineering solutions for complex user scenarios. Her passion for infusing principles of human factors and user research into all stages of the development process for medical devices has driven her work as the program lead developing medical exosuits at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. One of The University Network’s “Women ‘Killin’ It’ In Robotics," Kathleen has been recognized for her team’s efforts to translate robotic exosuit technology to the clinic. The exosuit is designed to provide mechanical assistance embedded textile garments to improve walking function for patients recovering from stroke. In collaboration with ReWalk Robotics, Kathleen and her team worked to achieve FDA-clearance and mass-produce the exosuit design for use in physical therapy clinics.

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About This Talk

As a patient struggling to walk after a serious accident on the drive across the country to graduate school, Kathleen O'Donnell became acutely aware of the role mobility can play in quality of life. With this new insight, Kathleen focused her studies on prosthetics and assisted devices. In her own words, “As I became more involved in medical robotics...I realized there are many non-traditional approaches to robotics, and that by transforming the way that we think about robots, we can transform our relationship with them and the types of challenges we can design them to solve.”

With this mindset, Kathleen became a part of the team adapting the “exosuit'', a soft wearable robot, to address mobility issues stemming from neurological disease. After hearing feedback from a patient, Kathleen found that the exosuit was more than a solution, but a form of liberation. Watch her 2018 TEDMED Talk to learn more about the field of medical robotics, the current strides that are being made and the future possibilities.

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