A Californian company has developed a “wearable robot” which can replace a wheelchair for those paralysed below the waist, but whose arms are OK. The machine is based on ten years of bionics research for the military. The same technology allows soldiers to carry heavy loads over long distances by attaching intelligent, motorised leg-braces.
The robot suit includes four motors, one at each hip and knee, and “smart crutches” which allow the wearer to control leg movements with arm gestures. A computer uses an algorithm to calculate where to put the next step. The current model has a battery which will power the device for up to four hours.
Over the past year 100 people with spinal injuries have taken part in helping develop and refine the machine for Ekso Bionics, Berkeley, California. Ekso also have an office in Canary Wharf, London and nearly have the approval to distribute to the EU market.
The first model has been delivered to a hospital in Denver, Colorado.
Lighter, and even more accurate machines are planned to make getting around for some less able people much more attainable.
Ekso web site: