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eLEGS Exoskeleton For Paraplegics

eLEGS Exoskeleton For Paraplegics

eLEGS helps the paralyzed walk again…

A new exoskeleton has recently been unveiled, this time designed for medical use. The eLEGS exoskeleton promises to give back walking mobility to the paralyzed and paraplegic.

The eLEGS exoskeleton, designed by Berkeley Bionics, is made from carbon fiber and steel. It consists of a wearable outer skeleton with four motors – one on each side of the hip, and one at each knee – and an array of sensors that relay their position to a control unit housed in a backpack.

amanda boxtel elegs 550x340 eLEGS Exoskeleton For Paraplegics

Amanda Boxtel Walks In eLEGS

The device has a maximum speed of 2mph and is powered by a lithium-cobalt battery that can provide up to six hours of continuous use.

The whole system weighs 45 pounds, and although it can support the wearer’s weight, the person must balance using two crutches that have a simple built-in touch interface designed to control the movements of a natural gait.

The commands a user must perform to move the device are extremely simple to stand up the user applies pressure to both crutches; to walk the user applies pressure to one crutch to make the other leg move forward.

Not only is the device user-friendly, it also ‘has the largest range of knee flexion of any exoskeleton, a feature they [Berkeley Bionics] say offers a more natural gait than other exoskeletons.’ [New Scientist]

To fit into the system the person must be between 5 ft 2” and 6ft 4” tall, with a maximum weight no more than 220 lbs.

Exoskeletons such as eLEGS not only help lift the spirits of those once confined to a wheelchair, the ability to stand up also provides medical benefits by aiding digestion and blood circulation to the extremities.

Amanda Boxtel, a patient who was left paralyzed from the waist down after partially severing her spinal cord in a ski-ing accident 18 years ago, was asked to test the device at the company’s Berkeley warehouse. Within just a few hours she was walking around for the first time in almost two decades. She said:

“Walking with eLEGS took some rewiring and relearning, but my body has the muscle memory. And I learned to walk really fast.” [New Scientist]

“To take my first step in the eLEGS was just astounding,” Boxtel says with tears in her eyes, “because I bent my knee for the first time in 18 years and I placed my heel on the ground. And then I transferred my weight. And then I took another step. And another one. And it was so natural, and that was what really gripped me.” [CNET]

eLEGS is currently priced at $100,000 about the price of a high-end wheel chair however ‘Berkeley Bionics CEO Eythor Bender says the company is hoping to make a lighter, thinner and cheaper model for around $50,000.’ [Cnet]

eLEGS will only be available for clinical use at first, but trails are set to start early next year. Then, all being well, a commercial model will hopefully follow soon after.

The is by no means the first exoskeleton to hit testing stages, however it is one of the first specifically designed to help the paralyzed walk again.

The eLEGS design is the same technology that paved the way for the HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier). Berkeley licensed the design to Lockheed Martin for the development of its military exoskeleton. Also in contention for military application, rivals Raytheon licensed technology from Scarcos to develop its OX2 exoskeleton. With both in testing stages, it is still unclear which one, if either, will see military deployment in the future.

In the race to be the first to offer on a commercial scale exoskeletons for medical use, the REX (the robotic exoskeleton) has already gone on sale for $150,000 at the REX lab in Auckland, New Zealand. And Israeli company Argo Medical Technologies says it’s ReWalk robotic suit (which looks very similar to eLEGS and REX) will be FDA approved and on the market within 12 – 18 months.

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