A Canadian startup just began a crowdfunding campaign for the world’s first bionic knee brace, and it’s a pretty big deal.
Spring Loaded Technology launches on Indiegogo Wednesday with the hope of raising $75,000 and 200 unit orders for their Levitation brace, a device they say stores kinetic energy as users bend their knees and augments the strength of your leg muscles. That means big things for injury prevention and rehabilitation.
“The idea was therefore simple: create a spring loaded knee brace that would store energy when the user bends their knees, and releases that energy as they straighten their legs,” CEO Chris Cowper-Smith tells Geektime. “The result would be a product that could augment quadriceps’ strength and performance to help people get back on their feet sooner.”
Both he and co-founder CTO Bob Garrish have dealt with knee injuries and express frustration about the utility their braces used to have. Cowper-Smith has been working on his PhD in Neuroscience at Dalhousie University, bringing an essential understanding of how the brain controls motor movements to Spring Loaded. Garrish, who has a background in mathematics and an MS in Mechanical Engineering, has himself taken home several innovation awards.
The device is built using carbon fiber and is available in multiple sizes. Their promotional videos show users hiding it underneath their clothes or wearing it over their pants, using it for everyday activities and playing sports.
“Along the way we tried metal springs, polymers, and even gas springs, none of which were quite right,” says Cowper-Smith. Instead of a mechanical spring, they are using a proprietary technology that includes a “liquid spring” that they say was inspired by the landing gear of a high-performance jet. Its power doesn’t come from motors or batteries.
The price is a steep $1,199 with an expected retail more than twice that, at $2,500. Still, that shouldn’t keep you away from the campaign. The braces are expected to be covered up to 80% by a standard insurance plan.
They are operating without venture capital or private equity fundraising, but seem to be doing pretty well for themselves. Spring Loaded Technology just signed a contract with the Canadian Department of National Defence to promote the Upshot, the original model of Levitation, to be directed at soldiers. Levitation will be the version available to the wider consumer market.
Cowper-Smith explains the difference between the two as follows: “Upshot was originally developed for military users and has a few additional reinforcements intended for users who will put a huge amount of wear and tear on the knee brace through really extreme environmental conditions. Levitation is an extremely durable and powerful product designed for athletes, workers, and everyday activities.”
Founded in 2013, the team is hoping to hit profitability and double their team of 12 by the end of 2016 out of their offices in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. For now, they have modest expectations with their Indiegogo campaign, but with the price at $1,199, the 200 units they hope to sell would be a big launch for the growing operation. First deliveries should happen in the summer.
“We know there are millions of people in need, and this campaign is intended as a test to see if we can reach those individuals online,” Cowper-Smith notes.