Last year the world looked on in awe when a paraplegic man walked on to the pitch and took the first kick of the World Cup. The man had assistance from an incredible iron exoskeleton which gave him the ability to control his movement with his thoughts and it even gave him the chance to experience the sensation of the strike. This suit was impractical for everyday use and was clearly not ready for consumers but it will only be a matter of time until the suit is perfected to be practical for everyday use, this suit will soon provide a freedom to people who thought they would never walk again.
This suit is designed by a medical tech company called ReWalk Robotics and their design is called the ReWalk Exoskeleton, it is claimed to be the most customisable and most researched exoskeleton around. The system was designed to allow those with complete or partial leg paralysis, for example a spinal cord injury could leave you unable to walk independently but with ReWalk exoskeleton they would have no or less limitation compared to when they were in a wheelchair.
Getting people out of wheelchairs also provides health benefits as the ReWalk’s clinical trials suggested that standing and walking around in the exoskeleton could improve bladder and bowel function, it can also decrease pain, body fat and reduce fatigue. Studies have also highlighted that uses of the ReWalk exoskeleton can move up to speeds of around 0.71 metres per second which is about half the speed of what an average person walks, this is extremely impressive especially if you consider the fact that the users of the exoskeleton could not even walk before.
The exoskeleton consists of leg braces, straps around the waist, legs so that the weight is easily distributed and finally a backpack to house the processor. So how does the ReWalk exoskeleton work? Well it works using and accelerometer which detects subtle changes in the user’s centre of gravity, meaning that if the user leans forward then a step forward is initiated which can then be followed up by a sequence of fluid steps if the weight is always being put in the right places.
There has been a large amount of R&D put into this product so as I am sure you would of guessed it is not going to be cheap. According to IEEE spectrum it is going to cost $77,000 but ReWalk’s website states that it will help customers seek reimbursement, and if given the opportunity they say they will provide the exoskeleton for as many people as they can!