Sunday, June 2, 2013

This Suit Is Made for Walkin

by Bruce Falconer, executive summary by darmansjah

Pentagon-funded research has enabled the lost to pinpoint their locations, the night blind to see in the dark, and old lovers to keep tabs on each other online. Now it may help paraplegics to walk. Last fall California-based Berkeley Bionics unveiled a “wearable robot” called eLEGS, an exoskeleton adapted from technology currently being tested for U.S. foot soldiers. Users strap on a backpack containing a battery and microprocessor, then bionic legs with motorized joints at the hips and knees. Sensors in handheld crutches issue instructions to the backpack computer, which relays them to the legs. Walking is simple: Shifting weight to the left crutch, for example, initiates a step forward with the right foot. Trials begin this year. For now eLEGS is limited to patients under six feet two and 220 pounds with good upper-body strength. By 2013 a more rugged, versatile model may be afoot

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