Exoskeleton Technology Might Help Some People Walk Again

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People that have an accident, a stroke or a disease can have a hard time walking or even become paralyzed. This is a problem over 15 million people in the world encounter each year.

However, advances in technology and physical therapy could help people walk again.

Ekso Bionics has developed robotic exoskeletons that can be used to help patients recover their mobility. They look like a backpack which will stay on the user’s back. It has robotic legs that wrap around the patient’s legs, and it comes with a controller attached to the ‘backpack.’

How to Be a Robot

Physical therapy will be accelerated with the use of exo robots. Lauren Bularzik is a physical therapist who used the robot on one of her patients. She said:

“For someone who takes a lot of energy to only walk a few feet, exo can get them up, can get them moving, it can supplement their movements, get that reciprocal pattern, encourage the correct motor planning.”

The robot will not only speed the time of recovery, but it can also help people with spinal cord injuries or who had strokes. The machine could help the brain rewire and activate secondary muscles to help patients walk in the future with no need of the exoskeleton.

Patrick Wensing is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. He explains that there is one problem with exoskeletons:

“While existing exoskeletons are very powerful, they don’t understand what the user wants to do. So in order to transition between activities in daily life, you often have to press a button interface to tell the exoskeleton ‘I would like to stand up now.’”

He and his team are trying to fix this issue by creating a machine that understands what the user wants to do without using sensors or control panels.

Later this year, the team will travel to California and work with Ekso Bionics to design the programs for users that have various disabilities.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere

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