Berkeley Bionics’ newest exoskeleton lets wheelchair users walk
At a press conference held this morning in San Francisco, California’s Berkeley Bionics unveiled its eLEGS exoskeleton. The computer-controlled device is designed to be worn by paraplegics, providing the power and support to get them out of their wheelchairs, into a standing posture, and walking – albeit with the aid of crutches. The two formerly wheelchair-bound “test pilots” in attendance did indeed use eLEGS to walk across the stage, in a slow-but-steady gait similar to that of full-time crutch-users.
eLEGS is worn over the clothing (including the shoes), and people who are capable of transferring themselves out of their wheelchairs reportedly should be able to get in and out of the exoskeleton within one to two minutes. It can be adjusted to fit users between 5’2” and 6’4” (157 and 193 cm), weighing no more than 220 lbs (100 kg). Once they’re standing, the onboard computer utilizes sensors to observe the user’s gestures. It then determines what the user intends to do, based on those gestures, and assists them accordingly in real time.
The device weighs 45 lbs (20 kg) and has a battery life of about six hours, under normal use. A maximum walking speed in excess of 2mph (3.22km/h) can be attained.
Not only should the device allow the paralyzed to walk, in a mechanical way, but it could also be used to retrain the muscles and nerve connections of people who have been rendered temporarily unable to do so.
Clinical trials are scheduled for early 2011, with a limited release in select American rehabilitation clinics within the second half of that year. Training will be provided for therapists, and patients will be able to apply to take part in the eLEGS gait training program. Farther down the road, Berkeley would like to see the product available for home users, so they could put it on in the morning and use it all day.
Berkeley Bionics is no stranger to exoskeletons. It already produces the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC), which allows able-bodied soldiers to carry loads of up to 200 lbs (91 kg) over rugged terrain.
About the Author
An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.
All articles by Ben Coxworth
That\'s awesome, hopefully a decade from now wheel chairs will be as common to see as the horse & buggy. It would suck to not be able to walk, I\'m sure everyone who is paralyzed from the waist down would love to be a guinea pig for this tech.
I have only partial paralysis due to a head injury. Since my left side is very weak; my right sided being stronger throws my balance off. That makes my wheelchair necessary. This, or a similar device, may get me out of my wheelchair. Thrilling!
I have wheelchair-bound friends and know that anything that gets you out of that chair, up, and walking is a good thing no matter how slow it is or limited to just a few hours. Even those of us who have full use of our lower body do not do well if on our feet the whole time for more than 4hrs at a time!
Will, the tink
How long til Gundam?
haha this is too cool. i cant help but worry that this like atomic energy will be ruined by the military
Good stuff, I learned to walk again the hard way with crutches and calipers. Then slowly shed off the calipers unlike Forest Gump on the movie.
Now I use my 4-wheel kick scooter, http://www.slida.orconhosting.net.nz/
Have not used wheelchair for 7 years and hearing the word gets me shiver.
There are options out there but paraplegics need to get off their bum and get walking one way or another.
I like ur article and it really gives an outstanding idea that is very helpful for all the
people on the web
this is amazing!!!
I have a severe back injury and can only walk a short distance so I love this technology,I just hope those that need it will be able to afford it.I would really like to see a company or individuals under licence to these companies that takes their technology and tries to come up with cost cutting methods,new materials etc.Were at a crossroads in time where we have the ability to provide the people of the world with many life improving tools,sadly because of the high cost,few people ever see these products.That has to change.Companies should seek ways to make more with less,it's a win win for everyone.
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