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Medicine Technology

eLEGS Exoskeleton Allows Paraplegics To Walk 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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eLEGS Exoskeleton Allows Paraplegics To Walk

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  • Allow me (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 08, 2010 @01:49PM (#33838342)
    Allow me to be the first to welcome our previously wheelchair bound overlords
  • by JesseL ( 107722 ) * on Friday October 08, 2010 @01:50PM (#33838346) Homepage Journal

    How long until some gimpy vigilante begins using one?

  • Today (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

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

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

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

  • This, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 08, 2010 @02:00PM (#33838488)
    this is the future that I am excited about. Sure as hell beats twitter.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mdm-adph ( 1030332 )

      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.

      • by hAckz0r ( 989977 )
        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.
    • by AaxelB ( 1034884 )
      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: (Score:3, Funny)

        by gstoddart ( 321705 )

        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.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      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?

  • 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 :\
  • by captain_dope_pants ( 842414 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @02:08PM (#33838566)
    But the cool arty types will get iLEGs
    • 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

  • 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! :)
  • by GMFTatsujin ( 239569 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @02:18PM (#33838674) Homepage

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

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

  • by ethicalcannibal ( 1632871 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @02:24PM (#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.
    • by Grygus ( 1143095 )
      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Liquidrage ( 640463 )
        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'
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      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 testin

      • 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
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by wumpyness ( 1275104 )
      I share the cynicism. The iBot stopped production for that very reason - insurers wouldn't cover enough of the cost [].
  • by thewils ( 463314 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @02:31PM (#33838824) Journal

    It's the WRONG TROUSERS!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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?

  • video (Score:3, Informative)

    by lijkert ( 1259028 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @02:39PM (#33838974)
    here's a video of people walking with it, posted today: []
  • Did anyone else initially misread that title as "LEGO Exoskeleton"? Now THAT would be AWESOME!
  • by systemsplanet ( 1332511 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @02:58PM (#33839260) Journal
    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.
  • or it didn't happen!
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      or it didn't happen!

      Here you go:

      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.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )
      And see to it that it has a ZZ Top sound track.
  • Use of the suit permits endless use of the phrase, "Get away from her, you bitch!"
  • It WORKS!

  • 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: []

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