Paralyzed woman walks again with 3D-printed robotic exoskeleton
3D Systems, in collaboration with Ekso Bionics, has created a 3D-printed robotic exoskeleton that has restored the ability to walk in a woman paralyzed from the waist down. The Ekso-Suit was trialled and demonstrated by Amanda Boxtel, who was told by her doctor that she’d never walk again after a skiing accident in 1992. (via Paralyzed woman walks again with 3D-printed robotic exoskeleton)

In the 1960s, GE set out to create a mechanical exoskeleton that could give the average person super strength. Called Hardiman, the project was funded by the U.S. military and was developed to allow users to easily lift up to 1,500 pounds. Unfortunately, the suit itself weighed 1,500 pounds and ultimately Hardiman’s size, weight, lack of stability and power-supply issues prevented it from ever leaving the laboratory. 

Shown here is one of the arms developed for Hardiman. Image via Cybernetic Zoo

Making Huge Strides for Mobility

This exoskeleton, developed by UC Berkeley professor Homayoon Kazerooni and his team, helps people suffering from spinal cord injuries to walk again.

“Many paraplegics are not in a situation to afford a $100,000 device, and insurance companies don’t pay for these devices,” Kazerooni said. “Our job as engineers is to make something people can use.”

To make his exoskeleton affordable, he used the simplest possible technology: a computer and batteries in a backpack, actuators at the hips, and a pair of crutches with buttons that activate an exoskeleton that fits around the legs. The crutches provide stability, an important consideration for paraplegics navigating streets and sidewalks.

“The key is independence for these people,” he said. “I want them to get up in the morning and go to work, go to the bathroom, stand at a bar and have a beer.”

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The £90,000 ‘robolegs’ that got me out of my wheelchair: How one woman stood on her own feet nine years after she was paralysed

It is an extraordinary sight. From the waist up, 27-year-old Sophie Morgan is every inch the pretty blonde girl-next-door. But from the waist down, with her legs encased in £90,000 of motorised carbon-fibre, she is RoboCop.

Sophie’s thumb manipulates a joystick built into the armrests of her suit, causing the legs to hiss and whirr into life, before she takes three slow but sure steps. Her face breaks into a broad grin.

Five minutes earlier, Sophie was in her wheelchair. She was left paralysed from the chest down in a car crash nine years ago that shattered her spine. Over the years, Sophie, an aspiring television presenter who appeared in Channel 4’s Paralympics coverage, had come to accept that she would never walk again.

Enter the first cyborg-type robot - ISO Feature about Cyberdyne and the exoskeleton HAL

ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, has a neat feature about Cyberdyne, their exoskeleton HAL & ISO 13482, the first standard on safety requirements for personal care robots. Worth a read.

What if cyborgs were real? Partly robot, partly man, functioning as one. No, we are not talking science fiction anymore. The first one is here and his name is HAL.

Do you know someone in a wheelchair? What if I tell you there is a way that this person can walk again? That all it takes is a robot suit that reads your mind. What if you too could wear this exoskeleton to gain the strength of a Hulk or a Superman and help people? Would you believe me if I said all this was possible? Japanese robotics company CYBERDYNE has created one such exoskeleton, that is, a device designed to be worn by a human. This Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) can detect and reproduce the wearer’s intention to move by reading signals from the brain. According to CYBERDYNE’s CEO, Dr. Yoshiyuki Sankai, HAL is unique in that there is no other technology of its kind to compare with. “Our aim was to treat, improve, support and enhance human physical functions,” he tells me. Well, HAL does just that.

[read more] [Cyberdyne] [picture via wikimedia]

Unpowered Ankle Exoskeleton Takes the Load Off a Long Hike

Evolution has had four million years to tinker with the locomotion experiment called walking on two feet. With that much time for natural selection to keep what works and chuck what doesn’t, there wouldn’t seem to be much room for improvement. 

But what about those tired feet you get after standing on them all day? Or the dull ache that starts creeping up your legs after walking for a few hours? It turns out that even evolutionary fine-tuning leaves room for improvement, and a number of public and private sector engineers have been working on exoskeletons to improve bipedal efficiency. 

Researchers have now built an ankle exoskeleton that requires no external chemical or electrical power and decreases the energy a person uses for walking by more than 7 percent, about the equivalent of taking off a 10-pound backpack. The team, from Carnegie Mellon, North Carolina State and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, say this walking efficiency improvement is on par with units that run on powered motors. It could also be a simple and cheap way to help people whose work keeps them on their feet all day. Learn more and see images below.

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Sophie Morgan walks with the aid of “Rex”, a Robotic Exoskeleton at the Welcome Trust on September 19, 2012 in London, England. The system allows wheelchair users including fully paralyzed people, to stand upright and walk independently. Sophie was paralyzed from the breast bone down in 2003 following a car accident. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Exoskeleton Shipyard Workers

From Discover Magazine:

At [a] South Korean shipyard, lifting and moving massive slabs of metal as if they’re made of foam could soon be a basic job requirement for workers. Of course, they’ll have some help: robotic exoskeletons, which made their debut last year at the company’s manufacturing facility, are on the rise.

After successfully testing the exoskeletons last year, the shipbuilding giant hopes to soon outfit some of their employees with the technology, giving them the superhuman strength to take production to new heights, New Scientist reports. The prototypes tested allowed workers to pick up 65-pound objects and manipulate them with ease, but Daewoo plans to increase the exoskeletons’ carrying capacity to roughly 220 pounds with design improvements.

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NASA Develops Ironman-Like Exoskeleton

NASA has recently unveiled a robotic exoskeleton that they have created to help astronauts remain healthy while in space. Named the X1 robotic exoskeleton, the project was a spinoff of NASA’s Robonaut 2 project. The designers think that the exoskeleton will eventually be usable on Earth as a way to assist paraplegics in walking.

The project was a joint development of NASA, The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) of Pensacola, Fla., and engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston. The device is designed for a human to wear over their body either assisting or inhibiting joint movement, and weighs about 57lbs.

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