We’ve written about ReWalk Robotics exoskeleton here in the past, and while that has the distinction of being the first such device approved for personal use in the United States, it is not the only such system available. Ekso Bionics also makes a similar device that is in use in hospitals and rehabilitation centers across the U.S. and around the world.
The battery-powered exoskeleton works in several modes. It is capable of providing an assist for those with limited strength in their legs, or it can be used by those complete paralysis below the waist. It can be controlled by a physical therapist who can initiate the stepping sequence using buttons, or the subject can take control and press the buttons. The device can also detect a shift in weight when the subject makes a hip movement, which can be used to trigger the stepping sequence. This last mode can be combined with the subject’s attempt at forward movement of the leg, which can then be used to signal the walking motion.
According to the company, every subject who was cleared by a physician for the device and who passed a physical examination, succeeded in walking in their very first session. The company’s technology has also been licensed to the Lockheed Martin Corporation for augmented mobility applications. As this technology becomes more readily available and more affordable, it has the potential to have a huge positive impact on individuals who have lost the ability to walk.