Monday, April 23, 2012

Robotic Legs - Ekso Bionics - CNN

First, there was HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier), a wearable robot created by Ekso Bionics Department of Defense that allows soldiers to carry up to 200 lbs. for many hours.

By taking cues from HULC, the company has created something new - robotic legs -allowing those with setbacks to stand and walk again. It’s called the Ekso.

We’ve been watching the progress of exoskeleton suits in the tech world for years, but now we’re actually seeing them hit the market with successful results.

Let’s focus specifically on the Ekso. The Ekso is a wearable robotic suit created for people with MS, paralysis, spinal cord injuries, etc., to help them walk again.

How it works:
    •    All users must be accompanied by a trained therapist.
    •    The unit is battery powered and strapped over the patient’s clothing.
    •    One size fits all, but it can be adjusted to work for anyone 5’2-6’2 with a maximum weight of 220 lbs.  (It can be adjusted to fit the next patient in a matter of minutes.)
    •    There is one motor at each of the hips.
    •    There are over 30 sensors that work together on the device; move the left crutch forward it will tell the on-board computer system to move the right leg; move the right crutch and the left leg moves.
    •    The lithium ion battery inside lasts up to 3 hours and the battery is swappable.

Are suits currently being used?
Currently, these robotic legs are only available at rehabilitation centers and notably the top ten rehab facilities in the US have purchased them.

• In working with 63 patients that tried Ekso since 2010 – they were able to walk 81 to 638 steps during their first session.
• The average number of steps taken in a session was over 200.
• They are now working with upwards of 250+ patients.

Where are these available and what is the cost?
The device is $130,000 which includes training. The company also has established Ekso Hope – to help interested rehabilitation centers raise funds for the device.

There ARE a number of companies working on exoskeleton options.  Notably, an Israeli company is working on a unit called Re-walk that requires no therapist support. More of these options are good for the consumer which will help drive the cost down. There is only one Re-walk device used in the US at the moment.

Ekso is currently collaborating with more engineers and developers and will introduce a version (pushing for 2014) that individuals will be able to use on their own without supervision.

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Copyright © 2012 Katie Linendoll