How this 21-year-old created robotic gloves to help paralysed patients get their groove back

Hyderabad boy Zain Samdani has been into robotics since his childhood and now that he is all grown up, he has turned this passion into a profession used for helping those who have been paralysed
Meet Zain | (Pic:  Zain Samdani)
Meet Zain | (Pic:  Zain Samdani)

As a sweet little six-year-old, when Zain Samdani saw his mother taking care of the household like a pro, he decided to lend her a robotic hand. In all his innocence, he went up to her and said, "I will build you a robot that can do everything." Today, the same boy has grown into an entrepreneur whose invention goes behind the peripheries of any household.

He won the Young Entrepreneur Award from the Indian Business Forum, Riyadh in January 2018

But before the result came the hard, gruelling work of learning everything there is to learn about robotics. Born in Hyderabad and brought up in Saudi Arabia, Zain started by reading. And then some. Then came a series of instruction videos and only after he turned 14 came his first robotics kit. In 2013, he pursued the PSSO Robotics Programme at the King Salman Science Oasis in Riyadh apart from participating in international competitions. He topped it off with pursuing online courses leading up to the summer of 2015. 

But it is usually when pain hits home that you really put your power into play. And that's what happened with Zain. "A distant uncle of mine was paralysed and what upset me was that there was hardly any technological help that could be rendered to help him move around. In a quest to help my uncle, I decided to create ExoHeal," says the youngster.  

Zain with Sundar Pichai

Started in May 2016, this start-up offers a modular robotic device based on the concept of neuroplasticity. There are two gloves — one that is sensory and one that is robotic. The sensory one goes on the good hand and the robotic on the other. When you move the good hand, the paralysed hand is almost forced to mimic the action which actually tricks the brain into believing that the paralysed hand is actually okay, forming new neural connections. With consistent usage, movement may gradually be restored in the paralysed hand. 

In 2016, his working prototype helped his uncle and since then, the Ashoka Young Changemaker has been trying to perfect the device. He has been adding little touches and enhancements like going wireless, with the help of Bluetooth and radio waves, and the latest, launching an app. "Because of the lockdowns, patients are unable to travel to their physiotherapists and hence, the app helps the doctor track the progress of their patients in real-time," he explains. The app has a list of exercises the patient can choose from. With the team of five and machine learning, they are trying to adjust the level of assistance offered with the involvement of the doctors so that the latter puts only that much effort as is required from him.  

Selected as a Global Teen Leader by We Are Family Foundation in New York, USA in March 2019

Dr KV Rao Scientific Society in Hyderabad has also been of mighty help to this entrepreneur who is pursuing his Higher Secondary Course from the National Institute of Open Schooling due to medical reasons. The Society started supporting his project in November last year. Currently, the 3D printed model is ready and they hope to conduct clinical trials for further validation. By the way, this innovation has been to the Google Science Fair twice (2016 and 2019) and both times, Zain was the Global Finalist. Even Google's CEO Sundar Pichai has tried them out too. Now, how's that for some validation?

For more on him check out

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