This article was first published in Finansavisen Saturday.
ALS: -If I had my robotic arm now, I could drink a cup of tea myself, says Eddie Torp.
He had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis four years ago and was diagnosed three years ago. For the past two years, he’s been following up on what the founders of Will Bionics have achieved.
– It is important that they make progress, it is for the best of all; Both users and the health service. Home hospitals are by far the best. Only health professionals like hospitals, Torp says, and also adds that home hospitals are much cheaper.
Home hospitals are part of the green transition. Torp says there will be more health for less money.
It was developed by two civil engineers
The robot arm he is pointing at is the result of brotherly love. In 2015, civil engineer Manjur Lian fell ill with ALS, his arms and hands gradually becoming paralyzed. He was helped by his brother Terry, Professor Emeritus of Robotics at NTNU. Motorized exhaust structure aids movement in the arms and hands. The Lien brothers contacted the ALS department at St. Olav’s in Trondheim, who in turn called the NTNU College of Entrepreneurship.
They were a group of master’s students who worked on this project, and in January of last year they founded Vilje Bionics AS. That same fall, he joined the team Martin Bogstrand, who holds a degree in Communications and Project Management from BI.
– When I saw the job ad, I dropped everything I had into my hands. This can really make a difference, says Bogstrand, who had a father with Parkinson’s disease.
– He passed away when I was 10, and there was so much skating and ripping that we couldn’t do together. I saw the pain it caused him and his family, in part because his arms didn’t work as well as they should.
Several different groups of users
Will Bionics developed three prototypes after conducting user tests, focus groups, and in-depth interviews with users with different diagnoses. The robotic arm, which assists with movement in the shoulder, elbow and wrist, is not intended for ALS sufferers. Other people who may need assistance with movement are, for example, those with a spinal cord injury, MS, or those who have been bitten by a tick or who have had a stroke. Then they can perform daily activities such as eating and drinking or scratching themselves.
We build on what was developed by Professor Lian. The first model was controlled by a foot pedal because Mangur had feelings in his feet. We just tested speech recognition with Eddie now, and it worked. Another way to control the robot arm is, for example, using the eye or mouth-blowing function. We want to see the possibilities the user should control the robot arm, not the limitations.
NounSaid Hosseini (26) and Martin Bogstrand (24).
business idea: A robotic exhaust skeleton that helps people who can’t move their arm live independently.
Ambition: Get sales in Norway, Nordic countries and other EU countries in 2026 and in ten years become a rhinoceros in electronics.
Finance: 131,000 crowns from Innovation Norway, 1 million from the Research Council, 2 million from the Damm Foundation, 800,000 from the Sophies Minde Foundation, 1 million from the municipality of Oslo, 500,000 in SkatteFUNN. The company immediately closed an investment round of two million dollars.
friendsStaff (74%), Terje and Mangor Lien and Tore W. Meisingset (26%).
When do you expect to have a finished product on the market?
– I’m 2024/25. And we’ve been thinking internationally from day one. The market in Norway is primarily orthopedic workshops. Orthopedic engineers and users can apply to have this covered by Nav. We will also enable users to rent a robotic arm through Nav or privately, Bogstrand says.
– What’s the story behind the company’s name?
The will for a better life. Our users have a will for another world. Al-Hussaini says I am very impressed.
Torp joins the conversation:
This diagnosis makes life’s goals go awry: getting older with a girlfriend, watching adult children mature, following grandchildren to school. Dreams of the future shattered. I have to make the most of it for family, friends, and fellow human beings. What can I contribute so that I don’t die of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in vain? Yes, research and development for effective medicine, development of assistive technology and better understanding of ALS.
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