A number of countries worldwide are in the process of developing robotic suits that can be worn to help a disabled person, or a person who is paralyzed because of a spinal cord injury, walk again. These so-called “exoskeletons,” promise persons with spinal cord injury the ability to be mobile once again.
One such exoskeleton has been developed by a company called Raytheon, which has developed a suit that is designed to reduce injuries caused to soldiers from heavy lifting. An Israeli company called Argo Medical Technology has also designed a robotic suit that is designed to help paraplegics who are paralyzed in their lower limbs, walk.
Another suit is being developed by a company called Ekso Bionics, which was founded by engineers from Berkeley, California. According to this company, it was the first in the field to introduce a self-contained suit, which is not connected to an external power supply. Currently, the suits are being used in rehab facilities by people who have suffered paralysis due to a spinal cord injury to walk around. However, the company believes that in the near future, the suits can be used by persons with spinal cord injury to walk anywhere they want.
This company began manufacturing and shipping exoskeleton robotic suits that are currently being used in physical therapy programs for people who are in wheelchairs. These people can use the exoskeleton, and walk about as part of their physical therapy program, to ensure that the muscles of their lower bodies do not begin to disintegrate from disuse. At least 15 rehab centers around the country are believed to be currently using the exoskeleton suits.
The suits are not exactly inexpensive. Each suit costs approximately $140,000, and come with a $10,000 service contract tab attached.
The suit that is developed by Ekso does not need any external power cables. This suit is battery-powered, and the batteries last for about 3 hours. The suit is comparatively light weighing about 50 pounds. However, in spite of the fact that it is light, a person will not be able to wear the suit on his own. Moreover, the person must be supervised as he’s walking in the suit.
Although the development of these suits is very impressive, it is clear to spinal injury lawyers that researchers are looking forward to a stage in the future where people will simply walk into a store, and buy one of these exoskeletons off the shelves.
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