Walking With The Help Of A Robot

Ekso Bionics is developing exoskeleton-like devices combined with robotics that will help people with walking difficulties get moving again.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What's the Latest Development?

Earlier this week at The Atlantic's Big Science Summit in San Jose, Matt Tilford, who was paralyzed in a car accident in 2007, stood and walked from his chair to the stage with the help of an exoskeleton-like device created by California-based Ekso Bionics. Consisting of a backpack and a pair of long leg braces, the device uses robotic technology to predict the user's next steps and operate accordingly. On its Web site, the company, which was founded in 2005, states that it has received research grants from the US Department of Defense to use towards its work in "augment[ing] human mobility and capability."

What's the Big Idea?

Ekso Bionics co-founder Russ Angold believes that the robot-assisted systems can help people with a wide range of motion difficulties. These include not just paraplegics, but people with conditions such as multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy, as well as people who are simply not as mobile as they used to be due to age. There are still technological challenges to sort out, not the least of which is battery life: Currently the frame has to be recharged after three hours. However, Tilford is eager to own one, saying, "Every time I get in it, I ask to take it home...I've seen a more exciting life."

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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