Berkeley Bionics, the company that licensed the HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier) to Lockheed Martin, has just unveiled an exoskeleton for the paralyzed. The battery powered system is partially controlled by the user and augmented by sensors that regulate the walking pattern. Although the system provides lift, it does not balance the wearer, so crutches must still be used.
From the announcement:
Initially, the device will be offered to rehabilitation centers for use under medical supervision, and can be adjusted to fit most people between 5’2 and 6’4” and weighing 220 lbs or less, in a matter of minutes. Users must be able to self-transfer from their wheelchair. Simple Velcro straps, backpack-style clips, and shoulder straps secure eLEGS to the user, over their clothing and shoes, and with a little practice, users can put eLEGS on and take it off in a minute or two.
eLEGS provides unprecedented knee flexion, which translates into the most natural human gait available in any exoskeleton today, making it better equipped to handle mixed terrains. It is also relatively quiet while in operation. Walking speeds depend on each patient’s aptitude and condition, but speeds in excess of 2MPH can be attained, and speeds can be varied. The device is battery-powered and employs a gesture-based human-machine interface which — utilizing sensors — observes the gestures the user makes to determine their intentions and then acts accordingly. A real-time computer draws on sensors and input devices to orchestrate every aspect of a single stride.
Clinical trials will commence early next year at select rehabilitation clinics in the United States. A limited release of eLEGS is scheduled during the second half of 2011 at several of the most respected rehabilitation facilities around the country. At that time, eligible patients will have the opportunity to enroll in a medically-supervised eLEGS gait training program, working with their physical therapist. Therapists will undergo training in order to become eLEGS-certified prior to assisting patients.
Press release: EXOSKELETON BY BERKELEY BIONICS ENABLES PARAPLEGICS TO WALK…
Link: Berkeley Bionics…
(hat tip: Gizmodo)