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eLEGS Exoskeleton Allows Paraplegics To Walk

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the step-by-step dept.

Medicine 56

Zothecula writes "At a press conference held recently in San Francisco, California's Berkeley Bionics unveiled its eLEGS exoskeleton. The computer-controlled device is designed to be worn by paraplegics, providing the power and support to get them out of their wheelchairs, into a standing posture, and walking – albeit with the aid of crutches. The two formerly wheelchair-bound 'test pilots' in attendance did indeed use eLEGS to walk across the stage, in a slow-but-steady gait similar to that of full-time crutch-users."

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Allow me (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33838342)

Allow me to be the first to welcome our previously wheelchair bound overlords

Re:Allow me (2, Funny)

Kepesk (1093871) | about 4 years ago | (#33838486)

Now if there were only an exoskeleton for my brother's butt...

(Sorry for the shameless plug; I couldn't resist)

Was that a drive by... (2, Funny)

WED Fan (911325) | about 4 years ago | (#33839120)

...butt plug?

Re:Allow me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33839426)

If I had any income, at all, I'd consider rewarding your worthy cause, but on an unrelated note: From reading your website, I gather that your brother is anything but wheelchair bound, in fact, sitting in a wheelchair would be bad for him. I just wanted to point this out as you we're replying to a post about wheelchair-boundedness. Your plug sure has a not-so-contrived relevanced to TFA, but the particular post you were replying to... Wookies, Endor... It doesn't make any sense!!!?!

Dr. Miles Hawkins sues for prior art (4, Funny)

JesseL (107722) | about 4 years ago | (#33838346)

How long until some gimpy vigilante begins using one?

Today (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33838348)

A little step for a man, a big step for the mankind.

Last thing overheard... (1)

Provocateur (133110) | about 4 years ago | (#33838394)

in a slow-but-steady gait similar to that of full-time crutch-users

Er, what's this red button FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooor???

WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33838446)

What's with the lame blue-titled "MARKETPLACE" thing on the right?

Slashdot has been going downhill since the last few years... where* do real nerds hang out these days?

* besides their parents basement - that joke has been dead for a few years too

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33838554)

where* do real nerds hang out these days?

Maker Faire, TED ... oh you meant hang out while sitting at the computer in their parents' basement.

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33838660)

What's with the lame blue-titled "MARKETPLACE" thing on the right?

I think it's called an ADVERTISEMENT.

Slashdot has been going downhill since the last few years... where* do real nerds hang out these days?

A real nerd would not have to ask this question. He would also probably be using adblock and/or disable ads in his Slashdot account.

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33838916)

The problem is, I already disabled ads in my account. I also can't access my user page anymore, I get "The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request." message.

Re:WTF (4, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | about 4 years ago | (#33839224)

"where* do real nerds hang out these days?"

They hang out on /b/. Trust me on this.

what's /b/? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33840614)

(gibberish for the comment body)

Re:what's /b/? (1)

rockNme2349 (1414329) | about 4 years ago | (#33842262)

what's /b/? (gibberish for the comment body)

Yes.

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33841954)

somewhat true. Also on slashdot, however, as "geek culture" has become "mainstream", we've gotten a bunch of pseudointellectual hangers-on who don't have anything better to do than be loud and misinformed. /b/ is nice, but it's also become filled with pseudointellectuals trying to talk about how big their dicks are and find people to hook up with (the cancer that is killing /b/).

if only there was a way to ban everyone who doesn't know linear algebra, then slashdot would be the place it used to be. like, maybe people who fail the pop quiz get their posts automatically -2 or something.

This, (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33838488)

this is the future that I am excited about. Sure as hell beats twitter.

Re:This, (2, Funny)

mdm-adph (1030332) | about 4 years ago | (#33839016)

But you see, that's the thing -- we get this AND twitter in the "new future." Now, not only will paraplegics walk, but their legs can automatically tweet where they're going.

Re:This, (1)

hAckz0r (989977) | about 4 years ago | (#33839980)

As long as they are not texting while driving I'm happy. Having a person/machine/cyborg like that step on your foot could really hurt.

Re:This, (1)

AaxelB (1034884) | about 4 years ago | (#33839672)

Same here! I've long said that when I'm old and feeble, I plan to have a powered exoskeleton that will keep me active and let me do whatever I damn well please. With luck, I've got at least 40-50 years before I need to worry about it, but I love seeing developments like this today. It makes me excited to see what will be available when I'm actually in the market...

Re:This, (2, Funny)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 years ago | (#33839860)

Same here! I've long said that when I'm old and feeble, I plan to have a powered exoskeleton that will keep me active and let me do whatever I damn well please.

See, I want a powered exoskeleton now, before I'm old and feeble ... so I can do whatever I damn well please.

Re:This, (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 years ago | (#33840118)

There are a couple of women who work in my building that use double crutches. I wonder of this device would let them walk without the crutches, if a paraplegic can use it with?

Are you saying it's from the future? (1)

digitaldc (879047) | about 4 years ago | (#33838494)

This is probably just the beginning of an amazing engineering feat that will allow the disabled to have the option of walking or using a wheelchair. I am sure people will adopt this readily and will become one of the most useful products out there.

These robotic legs will be a benefit to everyone disabled in society...until they become self-aware :\

Re:Are you saying it's from the future? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33838522)

once the disabled become self aware, we are all toast.

Re:Are you saying it's from the future? (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 4 years ago | (#33840470)

I always said that if (when?) I end up paralyzed I would make a robot walker instead of using a chair. I imagined it with 4 or more legs (probably 8) and able to go up stairs.

Yeah, I know, power.

eLEGs for the masses (5, Funny)

captain_dope_pants (842414) | about 4 years ago | (#33838566)

But the cool arty types will get iLEGs

Re:eLEGs for the masses (1)

multiplexo (27356) | about 4 years ago | (#33855710)

Steve Jobs told them that if they called it the iLegs that he'd have their legs broken, and that no, he wasn't talking about the robotic ones either.

Of course if Apple did come out with the iLegs I wonder how long it would be before an Apple engineer lost a prototype in a bar and it ended up on Gizmodo? Of course if he did he could just say "I didn't lose the prototype in a bar, it walked off by itself." I also wonder if a set of Apple iLegs would have a "find my iLegs feature" that would allow you to go to a website, use a built in GPS on the iLegs to determine where they were and then have them walk back to you. Would you be able to download a Ministry of Silly Walks app the iTunes store. Ahh, the jokes are endless.

Modern Names (1)

cpscotti (1032676) | about 4 years ago | (#33838588)

I'm so happy this isn't called iLegs!!!! eLegs is so.. so.. novel!

Seriously, where is creativity when come up with these names. I myself work for a "iSomething" company..

it scares me to thing about our iFuture!
Oh, now back on topic, the product? awesome! :)

Tell me I'm not the only one (4, Funny)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | about 4 years ago | (#33838674)

Did anyone else miscue the title as "eLEGO exoskeleton?"

Awesome unlock for Hawking, dude. LEGO Physicist is the funnest game ever!

What about coverage for such devices? (5, Informative)

ethicalcannibal (1632871) | about 4 years ago | (#33838728)

Have they addressed how accessible they plan these elegs to be? After a decade of fighting for basic prosthetics for patients, as a nurse, I have this horrible cynical vision. I worry that the insurance companies will call it all experimental, like the higher end prosthetics, and refuse to cover it at all, and slapping the word "medical" on the device will raise the price out of reach, even when the technology is more mass produced, and cheaper. Leading to it being totally out of reach financially for a lot of folks that would need it.

I've had that argument about wheelchairs, walkers, you name it. Hell, I even had to argue that dialysis was NOT an elective treatment to the phone zombie. Although, to the insurance companies credit, despite cutting off coverage for dialysis, I had it fixed in an hour+ when I finally clawed my way to a supervisor.

I'm talking about US healthcare practices. I don't have any experience with anywhere else.

Re:What about coverage for such devices? (1)

Grygus (1143095) | about 4 years ago | (#33839398)

They seem to be hoping for fairly wide adoption eventually:

"Clinical trials are scheduled for early 2011, with a limited release in select American rehabilitation clinics within the second half of that year. Training will be provided for therapists, and patients will be able to apply to take part in the eLEGS gait training program. Farther down the road, Berkeley would like to see the product available for home users, so they could put it on in the morning and use it all day."

Re:What about coverage for such devices? (2, Interesting)

Liquidrage (640463) | about 4 years ago | (#33839728)

Right but as the GP mentioned, just because something is easily available doesn't mean it's easily affordable. And that isn't because it shouldn't be affordable, it's because there are factors that make it such.
I work with a below the knee amputee and his prosthetic is one notch above a peg leg. And he has rather decent insurance.
So I could see this being a great device we should try and make available for anyone that would need it, but will end up getting to like .01% of those that need it.
That doesn't mean I'm saying this is a horrible project, but the external factors after production will likely make this live changing device out of reach for many.

Re:What about coverage for such devices? (2, Interesting)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | about 4 years ago | (#33840564)

Hah. I own a robotics company. I could probably build these pretty cheaply. What I couldn't do is afford the mandatory testing, liability insurance, permitting, advertising, special individual requirements, mandatory fitting costs, medical consultants, legislative lobbying to make them excluded from traffic laws, environmental impact studies related to the disposal of batteries, payments to financiers to arrange for financing for the twelve month wait between manufacure and actually being paid, FCC testing to make sure they don't interfere with wifi, etc. etc. etc.

I might make something like this for my own entertainment and/or family use and other people have already. If the US actually wanted cost effective medical technology we would pay less attention to tax incentives and more to removing the barriers that prevent innovators from introducing new products that could actually make profits to tax. I'm not saying remove all the environmental and liability laws, I'm just saying make it possible for small companies to deal with them without a staff of a dozen lawyers. That's not going to happen so people get to suffer instead.

Sorry about that. If I help you I'll get sued so you don't get help.

Re:What about coverage for such devices? (1)

ethicalcannibal (1632871) | about 4 years ago | (#33840846)

I am not sure liability is the sole issue, though.

That is a problem, but it seems that the word "medical" causes the cost to raise to ridiculous levels. I would routinely buy velcro for keeping wheelchair cushions from sliding from a wholesale craft site. The exact same product cost 5x as much from the medical catalogs at the facility where I was the head nurse. We managed to velcro everyone's wheelchair cushions (facility of about 43, most in wheelchairs) for the same cost as one.

I agree liability is an issue, but that only goes so far when the same wingnuts and bolts cost ridiculous amounts more just because they are "medical".

Re:What about coverage for such devices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33841900)

the twelve month wait between manufacure and actually being paid

Read: billing the insurance company and spending months on hold trying to get through to someone who will eventually get around to explaining that their decision not to pay you is final.

After proving that your device works and won't kill the user, insurance is the remaining half of the problem, but nobody's going to buy your million dollar legs without it, and the insurance companies sure as hell won't pay for them either.

Re:What about coverage for such devices? (2, Insightful)

wumpyness (1275104) | about 4 years ago | (#33841466)

I share the cynicism. The iBot stopped production for that very reason - insurers wouldn't cover enough of the cost [bbc.co.uk] .

Ooh Lookout Gromit (5, Funny)

thewils (463314) | about 4 years ago | (#33838824)

It's the WRONG TROUSERS!

This is the future (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33838874)

Am I the only one who got the image of Stephen Hawking sitting inside the frame of a giant futuristic battle robot, blasting turbolasers at everyone when I read the headline?

LEGO Exoskeleton? (1)

FriendlyPrimate (461389) | about 4 years ago | (#33839126)

Did anyone else initially misread that title as "LEGO Exoskeleton"? Now THAT would be AWESOME!

Re:LEGO Exoskeleton? (1)

Lanteran (1883836) | about 4 years ago | (#33839200)

right here. I am disappointed.

Who will be able to use these (5, Interesting)

systemsplanet (1332511) | about 4 years ago | (#33839260)

I've been in a wheelchair for 20+ years, from a spinal injury when I was 20. I wonder if only newly injured people will benefit from this technology. My bones are probably too brittle to support me even with an exoskeleton. Probably will need years of bone therapy before I could use this. But I'd certainly be willing to try, just so I could look down at people again. It would really freak people out, cause I'm 6" but they're used to looking down at me. Wonder if they'll have some dance and ass-kickin modes too.

Re:Who will be able to use these (5, Informative)

Grygus (1143095) | about 4 years ago | (#33839462)

In the video [berkeleybionics.com] on the site, they show a woman who's been paralyzed nearly as long as you using the device.

Re:Who will be able to use these (2, Funny)

youn (1516637) | about 4 years ago | (#33839748)

Thanks for the link. I find it ironic the CEO of a robotics company is called Bender :)... don't tell me it's bender from the future who's got a human exo skin to loo human :)

Re:Who will be able to use these (1)

internettoughguy (1478741) | about 4 years ago | (#33841596)

don't tell me it's bender from the future who's got a human exo skin to loo human :)

Simulation of bowl movements is not necessary to hide within a human culture, in almost all cases these bodily functions are performed discreetly.

Re:Who will be able to use these (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about 4 years ago | (#33841794)

Simulation of bowl movements

Someone stole your 'e'

Oh, there it is in the headline hiding in front of LEGS. Grab it before it runs off.

Re:Who will be able to use these (4, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 years ago | (#33839812)

Wonder if they'll have some dance and ass-kickin modes too.

On behalf of every quad I've ever known ... that's the funniest thing I've seen all week.

I've known some guys who would have been happy to have the high-school shuffle back. :-P

Re:Who will be able to use these (1)

drcheap (1897540) | about 4 years ago | (#33842056)

It would really freak people out, cause I'm 6" but they're used to looking down at me.

Being looked down upon sort of comes with the territory of being 6 inches tall.

Sorry, I had to :P

VIDEO! (1)

dos4who (564592) | about 4 years ago | (#33839278)

or it didn't happen!

Re:VIDEO! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33839912)

or it didn't happen!

Here you go:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_k30yeCk4c

Oh, wait... That's a Japanese version that has been available for a couple of years now. It also can help disabled people. Unfortunately, unlike the Berkley version it doesn't use crutches. Oh well, maybe they'll figure that out in another couple of years.

Re:VIDEO! (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about 4 years ago | (#33841996)

Those looked like able-bodied people walking in them.

Re:VIDEO! (1)

PPH (736903) | about 4 years ago | (#33842606)

And see to it that it has a ZZ Top sound track.

Another benefit... (2, Funny)

RAM_Doubler (1240072) | about 4 years ago | (#33839850)

Use of the suit permits endless use of the phrase, "Get away from her, you bitch!"

Science: (1)

Chris Tucker (302549) | about 4 years ago | (#33842548)

It WORKS!

Yoshiuki Sankai of Japan is way ahead of this (1)

EnlightenmentFan (617608) | about 4 years ago | (#33846696)

At SciFoo 2010, Yoshiuki Sankai of Tsukuba University gave a talk with videos of the varied robotic exoskeleton walking-prosthetics available from his company. The film included many examples of people who had not walked for years standing up and walking with these "legs". You could hear the doctors and nurses watching exclaiming their amazement and sometimes crying. Here is a 2006 biography of Sankai already discussing his exoskeletal robot, first demoed in 2005: http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/sankai.html [mit.edu] Their company page also seems to have more information in English: http://www.cyberdyne.jp/english/index.html [cyberdyne.jp]
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