Now, an exoskeleton that helps the paralysed walk againBy ANI
Friday, October 8, 2010
LONDON - A new exoskeleton, called eLEGS, could soon help people with spinal injuries walk with a natural gait, found a new study.
eLEGS is being readied for clinical trials by Berkeley Bionics, based in Berkeley, California.
Unlike other exoskeletons, such as Raytheon’s XOS-2, and Berkeley Bionics’s HULC, eLEGS is not intended to augment soldiers with super-human strength, but is specifically designed as a rehabilitation device to help restore walking function to people with spinal cord injuries, as well as improving blood circulation and digestion.
The suit consists of a backpack-mounted controller connected to robotic legs. It is driven by four motors, one for each hip and knee.
The ankle joint is controlled with passive springs that keep the foot angled so that it can be placed on the ground, heel to toe, as the leg steps, reports New Scientist.
Sensors in the legs relay position information to the control unit, which determines how to bend the joints and, in turn, walk.
Onboard lithium-cobalt batteries allow the suit to be operated without a tether to a power source.
While the device can support a wearer’s weight, balance is left up to the person, via crutches, which also serve to control the system.
To take a step, the wearer pushes down with the crutch opposite to the intended stepping leg.
Similar gestures, such as pushing down on both crutches simultaneously, allow the wearer to transition from sitting to standing, or to make turns.
Berkeley Bionics claims eLEGS has the largest range of knee flexion of any exoskeleton, a feature they say offers a more natural gait than other exoskeletons.
John Fogelin, director of engineering at Berkeley Bionics, says the company is working on ways to make the design sleeker by using smaller batteries and thinner struts, aiming for a day when it might be worn underneath one’s clothes. (ANI)