Spirit of Hong Kong

Hong Kong tech start-up chief’s main goal is to help sick and elderly with robotic devices

Denis Huen, founder and chief executive of MedEXO Robotics, builds affordable multifunctional wearable devices for patients and senior citizens

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 10:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 10:00am

Wearing a robotic suit does not immediately turn you into a superhero.

But with such a sci-fi-looking outfit, sick and elderly people may be able to move and lift heavy objects more easily.

Denis Huen Yin-fan, founder and chief executive of MedEXO Robotics, believes wearable robotics can improve the well-being of the community.

The 31-year-old inventor is building affordable multifunctional wearable devices for patients and senior citizens.

“I want to help them regain agility,” Huen said.

His latest product is a walking aid system targeting patients with Parkinson’s disease.

The equipment features a portable laser device that provides visual cues, a pair of insoles offering tactile cues and an app for managing settings and displaying visualised data.

Patients with movement disorders could walk with a stable gait after receiving these guiding signals, a corporate video showed.

I simply want to help people and make a difference
Denis Huen Yin-fan, entrepreneur

The technology start-up previously developed a robotic glove that sought to suppress the hand tremor in people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases.

Huen hopes more people can benefit from his inventions, even though the entrepreneur is uncertain whether these creations can bring him commercial success.

“I am not sure whether my project can be described as a social enterprise. I simply want to help people and make a difference,” he said.

Huen is one of the nominees for the South China Morning Post’s Spirit of Hong Kong Awards this year.

His name has been put forward by charity Hong Kong New Generation Cultural Association in the Innovating for Good category, which honours people behind breakthrough technologies or innovations for the good of society.

The association nurtures young scientists and inventors and helps them to present their work at science competitions.

Huen said his interest in mechanics stemmed from his frugal upbringing.

Automated bathing device boosts elderly safety, earns praise

“My family always wanted to reduce unnecessary waste,” he recalled.

When an electric fan stopped working, Huen’s mother would dismantle the appliance to examine its internal parts.

“As a primary student, I always watched her repair things. I subsequently developed a passion for robotics and product design,” he said.

Huen gradually found out that he was more successful in using scientific methods to solve a problem, and therefore became an active participant in science competitions.

The invention of a low-cost artificial leg won the then secondary student many awards at local, national and international competitions, including the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in the US.

23 ‘unsung heroes’ nominated for Post’s Spirit of Hong Kong Awards

“In 2005, I read about Cambodia’s landmine problem in the newspaper. I wanted to help those who had been maimed by landmines. Therefore I began working on the artificial leg,” he said of his inspiration at the time.

The inventor said his mission had remained unchanged over the years.

“I always want to make human bodies function better. I want to help maimed people and the elderly. With moving aids, they can perform activities of daily living like normal people,” he said.