Admit it; you were impressed when Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) strapped into the mechanical exoskeleton to do battle with the monster in “Alien.” Wouldn’t it be amazing if that technology was available in the real world? Now it is. This summer, ReWalk Robotics received FDA approval for personal use of their ReWalk robotic exoskeleton. The device provides battery-powered hip and knee motion, allowing paraplegics and patients with other conditions to walk again, and not be bound forever to a wheelchair.
The product had to go through rigorous clinical testing to get the approval. Test results showed both physiological and psychological benefits for patients who were able to walk again using the device. One special feature of the device is that the motion is initiated through movements by the wearer. Leaning forward triggers the first step, and motions then proceed to walk using a relatively normal gait. The user does not have to trigger the individual joint motions using switches or other controls.
Users have to undergo extensive training to learn to use the system, but it can provide them with new mobility around the home, at work, and in the community. According to the FDA, more than 200,000 people in the U.S. alone have some degree of paralysis who could be helped by the ReWalk system.