What moves you: A brief history of Roam Robotics

Roam wasn’t built in a day.

Every good company starts with a simple seed. For Roam Robotics, that seed is CEO Tim Swift. As one of the pioneers of exoskeleton technology, Tim began his career building assistive robotic devices that allowed paraplegic patients to stand and walk for the first time in years. Seeing the potential exoskeletons had for improving quality of life, Tim realized there were two problems: the devices were too heavy & too expensive to be a realistic option for most people. It was heartbreaking taking the devices off of patients and watching them return to their wheelchairs, knowing full well that the current state of exoskeletons couldn’t offer them more. Tim saw what the future of exoskeletons could be, but it would take a different way of thinking to get there.

Enter Otherlab.

A chance conversation with a friend led to a partnership that would change the robotics industry. After venturing out on his own in late 2013, Tim connected with an old friend, Saul Griffith, who happened to run a technology design company in San Francisco named Otherlab. The team at Otherlab had developed some key insights towards powerful pneumatic technology that they knew could have applications for improving human mobility. The challenge was, they needed to create devices that could integrate easily into people’s lives and truly extend their capabilities. That happened to be Tim’s specialty, and just like that, Roam was born.

The first step was to prove the technology could work.

Tim & the team at Otherlab set out to show that assistance could be smoothly added to the human body one joint at a time, beginning with the elbow. The arm exoskeleton they built was the first of its kind- a lightweight, low cost, and (most importantly) truly functional device that takes the wearer beyond what their body can do on its own. Building on that success, Tim & team followed up with an ankle prototype. The Roam ankle has been proven to both increase metabolic efficiency in the wearer and boost top human running speeds. The ankle exo is currently being tested by elite US military forces.

But the dream Tim saw for the future of exos was still far off.

To actually transform human mobility, exos had to be built for everyone, not just high-performance athletes. The idea for Roam’s first venture into commercial exoskeletons, the Elevate Ski XO, started in a surprising place: the hiking world. After building the ankle exo, the team decided to focus on the knee next. Hiking seemed like a natural fit; a day of hiking is strenuous on even the healthiest person’s knees. The hikers who tested the new Roam knee exo all felt it working, but they kept saying the same thing: “I wish I had one of these for skiing.” So they built one.

The tech of the future doesn’t just exist in comic books.

It’s here, right now (and if you’re a skier, you can try it out!). Exoskeletons have the potential to transform human mobility as we know it, from restoring lost motor function to supercharging the capabilities of any human body. Roam Robotics is proud to be leading the charge. We hope you’ll join us on the journey!

Theresa Smith