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Robotics Hardware

Paralyzed Man Walks Again Using Exoskeleton 192

Posted by kdawson
from the somewhere-there-is-a-crime-happening dept.
dominique_cimafranca notes a story up at the Daily Mail in the UK about a partially paralyzed man who is able to walk again using an exoskeleton frame. The article goes a bit far in comparing the device to Robocop, but it does show pictures of the man, paralyzed for the last 20 years, regaining some use of his legs. Quoting: "The device, called ReWalk, is the brainchild of engineer Amit Goffer, founder of Argo Medical Technologies, a small Israeli high-tech company. Something of a mix between the exoskeleton of a crustacean and the suit worn by Robocop, ReWalk helps paraplegics — people paralyzed below the waist — to stand, walk and climb stairs. The system, which requires crutches to help with balance, consists of motorized leg supports, body sensors and a back pack containing a computerized control box and rechargeable batteries."
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Paralyzed Man Walks Again Using Exoskeleton

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  • omg Robocop (Score:5, Funny)

    by to_throw_shapes (1351111) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @03:57PM (#24755551)
    WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY
  • by curmudgeon99 (1040054) <curmudgeon99@gmP ... m minus language> on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:00PM (#24755607)
    What a fantastic device. I would note that the success of cochlear implants is attributable to the ability of the brain to recognise and interpret any pattern stream. That's why the next device they are working on is the eye. They will not attempt to recreate all the hardware in the eye. Instead, they will look to supply a pattern stream [cue Jeff Hawkins of "On Intelligence" fame] to the brain.
    • by Xtravar (725372) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:13PM (#24755809) Homepage Journal

      I think they should work on batteries first. The day they figure out how to safely power personal electronics via the bloodstream is the day we solve obesity.

      • by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @05:24PM (#24756693)
        The man is paralyzed, not an amputee. His legs and muscles are perfectly functional, they just lack control. Instead of powering motors with batteries, the computer should be using his leg muscles as actuators.
        • Why motors and batteries?

          We know how to work with motors and batteries RIGHT NOW. No massive technological breakthroughs were required to build this device. Just some clever engineering.

          Once we figure out how to interface directly (and effectively) with the nervous system, we'll have "cured" paralysis completely.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The man is paralyzed, not an amputee. His legs and muscles are perfectly functional, they just lack control. Instead of powering motors with batteries, the computer should be using his leg muscles as actuators.

          that may not be possible for this case as the muscles, bones and nerves may have degenerated too much from (20) years of non-use.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by corbettw (214229)

        And the day we figure out how to safely power cars with blood, we solve the problems of dependence on foreign energy AND overpopulation!

    • by Esteanil (710082) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:29PM (#24756063) Homepage Journal
      Well, they've got something like 64 pixels for an artificial retina already, and several research projects are underway to improve this.

      Here [doheny.org] is a good list of articles about the University of Southern California Doheny Eye Institute's retinal implants.
      There are also projects based on external cameras, new cameras [sciencedaily.com] being developed for artificial retina use, and so on.

      Now imagine WoW with 20 years of hardware and software progress, as well as a direct neural interface ;-)
      • by rpillala (583965)

        64 pixels should be enough for anyone.

        Too easy, I know.

      • Is it weird if I have 20/20 but still want this?
      • That's wonderful news. I had not heard that. Well, the brain is capable of a lot.
    • by Pedrito (94783) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:43PM (#24756221) Homepage

      I would note that the success of cochlear implants is attributable to the ability of the brain to recognise and interpret any pattern stream.

      Actually, this is a bit misleading. Cochlear implants break the sound up into different frequencies using a fast fourier transform, and sending signals based on the various frequencies to the appropriate nerves. While the cochlea doesn't do math, obviously, the hairs of the cochlea perform more or less the same function with different hairs resonating at different frequencies and depending on which hairs resonate, the appropriate nerves are stimulated.

      So really, a cochlear implant performs virtually the same function as the cochlea sending pretty much the same patterns to the brain.

      I agree that the brain is very flexible, but if a cochlear implant didn't provide virtually the same signal that the cohclea does, the people using them would have to learn to recognize speech and other sounds from scratch, which isn't the case. This is why people who have lost their hearing for only a short period of time tend to find them more useful than people who have been deaf for life.

      The brain is quite adaptive, but to say it can "recognize and interpret any pattern stream" is a great exaggeration. Additionally, most of the brains adaptability comes at an early age. By the early 20s after most of the synaptic pruning has happened (young children have roughly 10 times as many synapses as adults), the ability of the brain to learn new things, particularly the generalized pattern recognition type abilities, becomes greatly diminished.

      • So obviously you haven't heard of the experiment where they created a device with a grid pattern of dull pins. The pins formed a grid pattern that was placed on the tongue. When the pins were raised in the manner of a object that was seen by a video device, the wearer could learn to interpret the pattern of raised pins just as if they had seen the pattern coming in from the eye. In the experiement, wearers could learn to see obstacles and avoid them in walking and also to "see" things like a drinking glass and reach out and grab it. So, I stand by my statement. We have yet to reach the limit of the various patterns a brain can interpret.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Newsclip [youtube.com] about seeing with your tongue.

          • Thank you! They've improved it to be electrical. Fantastic. (Thank you--also--for showing that I was speaking the truth.)
        • by rrkap (634128)

          That's hardly a big stretch from our partly hardwired, partly learned ability to determine something's shape by touch. If you can tell the difference between a cube, a sphere and a coffee cup by touch then you are already doing a nearly equivalent task.

          • Whether the information is coming from fingertips, eyes or the tongue--to the brain it's the same thing: pattern streams. I put it to you that the same process in the brain is at work in all those cases. The right brain looks for overall shapes [in the V1 layer, at least] and then the successive neurons in the cortical stack work in concert to classify what the pattern is. If the pattern is a linear, sequential one--such as we get in language--then the left hemisphere takes the lead. However, language produ
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by gregbot9000 (1293772)

          and also to "see" things like a drinking glass and reach out and grab it.

          Seems like that might not be such a good idea with all that hardware in your mouth, unless you drink it with your eye.

          • This is an actual experiment that was performed. Obviously, now I see the idiocy of my drinking glass example. But it is a way for people to use the great mass of neurons wired to the tongue for another purpose. Again, this is an actual device.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:00PM (#24755615)

    Does it run Linux?

  • In popular culture: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Zygfryd (856098) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:01PM (#24755619)
    In the TV series Dark Angel [imdb.com] the paraplegic character Logan is able to walk using a leg exoskeleton.

    It's nice seeing how science catches up to science fiction.
    • by fm6 (162816)

      What DA needed was a prosthetic for Jessica Alba's acting!

      • Jessica Alba was not cast for her acting ability obviously. Given what it was meant to be, I don't think the show was that bad. Of course given this new technological advancement...the show's plot would be pretty much busted now anyway.
        • by fm6 (162816)

          Given what it was meant to be, I don't think the show was that bad.

          What was it meant to be? Unless it was something that didn't involve people, JA was not up to the role.

          I watched it for a couple of episodes, found the premise kind of interesting. Then during one scene, she's walking down the street talking to a guy, and I suddenly found my suspension of disbelief all gone. If she can't do an ordinary conversation convincingly, how is she supposed to sell all her superhuman powers?

    • It's nice seeing how science catches up to science fiction.

      I suspect in this case, it is closer to 'necessity being the mother of invention'....

      Goffer himself was paralysed in an accident in 1997 but he cannot use his own invention because he does not have full function of his arms.

      The system, which requires crutches to help with balance, consists of motorized leg supports, body sensors and a back pack containing a computerized control box and rechargeable batteries.

      Now here is technology that may help in that: Big Dog Robot Walker [bostondynamics.com] If you haven't seen this you won't believe the video. And yes, it's real...it's not a hoax.

      This has been built to carry heavy loads for military purposes. But what great things it will be able to do for civilians if they can have legs or an exoskeleton that helps them keep their balance!

    • by DrYak (748999) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @09:21PM (#24759109) Homepage

      Even if the exo-skeletton is made to walk, it won't be suitable for all paraplegic patient.

      There's a major problem with this kind of device : the patient is staying upright. And thus is experiencing decreased blood pressure in the upper part of the body and increased pressure in the lower part.

      For a normal person in good health this isn't a problem, because when upright, we have mechanisms to compensate for the hydrostatic pressure.
      The problem with paraplegic patient is that the nervous pathways controlling this might be broken. Muscle contraction also play a role to keep the blood-pressure and, well, those don't work in a paraplegic patient.

      Probably a significant propotion of the patients will need to where special undergarment (like grandmas with venous problems and like some surgeon do) or trousers (like pilot's G-suits) to avoid passing out whenever in upright position for prolonged time.

  • His novella, "Blue Champagne." One of his better stories.

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@y[ ]o.com ['aho' in gap]> on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:04PM (#24755661) Homepage Journal

    sounds like a terminator unit when it walks, we ahve a winner.

  • Video... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Watch the video...
    http://www.reuters.com/news/video?videoId=89631&newsChannel=scienceNews

  • Stairs? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TehCable (1351775) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:05PM (#24755687)
    I'm skeptical until I see a video of how it handles stairs. I can't imagine that is very graceful or dignified (or safe for that matter).
    • Re:Stairs? (Score:5, Funny)

      by sakdoctor (1087155) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:06PM (#24755711) Homepage

      People said that about the Daleks too.

    • Re:Stairs? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@y[ ]o.com ['aho' in gap]> on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:07PM (#24755717) Homepage Journal

      You mean compared to being in a wheel chair?

    • Re:Stairs? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MoonBuggy (611105) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:11PM (#24755777) Journal

      I'm sure it's more graceful and dignified than trying to roll a wheelchair up them.

      Seriously, even if it can't yet go up stairs elegantly (and you don't know if that's the case), it's giving some serious advantages, not least of which is a sense of normalcy, without any drawbacks over a wheelchair - I don't really see the basis of your criticism.

      • by Esteanil (710082)
        Heh. No drawbacks over a wheelchair? Speed for one.
        Ability to stop and relax anywhere.
        And have you ever seen a "pro" wheelchair user go down stairs? Those people give the skateboarder and rollerblader people a run for their money :p
        Up is a bit harder, but I've seen them do some amazing stuff there as well.

        My point is: Wheelchair users are not a homogeneous group. This will definitively be an improvement for some users/situations, but not a generic wheelchair replacement.
        • by Neoprofin (871029)
          And coma patients get to sleep all they want!

          I think most people would give up the opportunity to always be sitting if it meant they no longer had to wonder if where they were going is ADA compliant.
        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          I imagine it's easier to interact with other humans when you're able to stand up like the rest of them, instead of them looking down at you all the time. This alone probably would make artificial legs a big benefit to most paraplegics. Besides, most people don't have the upper body strength necessary for the wheelchair acrobatics you mention. I once had to spend two months on a single crutch (other arm was broken) due to a broken sacrum. That one arm became very strong, and I could really get around on

    • It can't go up stairs yet, but from this video it obviously has no problem going down stairs [wired.com].
  • Yeah, but (Score:5, Funny)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@y[ ]o.com ['aho' in gap]> on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:06PM (#24755699) Homepage Journal

    can he do the robot?

  • Don't they know that giving an angry paraplegic a super powered robot exoskeleton is just a recipe for a murderous cyborg rampage?

    Fucking idiots!

    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      Don't they know that giving an angry paraplegic a super powered robot exoskeleton is just a recipe for a murderous cyborg rampage?

      Fucking idiots!

      Awesome idea! The first one to sell the script of that movie (The Rise of the Crips?) to Hollywood studios wins!

  • It would suck if the batteries are the same ones used in Dell laptops. If they explode, its users would have a tough time trying to get away.
  • by Tatisimo (1061320) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:15PM (#24755847)
    I dream of the day I can cut off this buggy tired right arm of mine and replace it with a bionic one. So long, RSI! Hell, even throw in a USB cable for easier input and flash storage. Then I shall return to EMACS!!!!
    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      I dream of the day I can cut off this buggy tired right arm of mine and replace it with a bionic one.

      Or you could just duct tape a Fleshlight to your arm..

    • Many an internet porn addict has said the same, but instead of farewell to arms, the result would be farewell to other parts. Ouch.

  • Just the beginning (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:20PM (#24755915)

    This is excellent, in 20 years paraplegics should be able to walk just like people with two functional legs.

    I can't believe it will remain as bulky or clumsy. An $20K is nothing compared to what it provides.

  • by BigJClark (1226554) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:24PM (#24755971)

    Anybody else notice the pictures of the person in the exo-suit (save robocop) are taken at wheelchair-height?

    Hmm
  • by Danathar (267989) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:26PM (#24756009) Journal

    This is awesome for those who are wheel chair bound. Keep in mind this will only get better and better. He may only be able to walk slowly and with arm supports NOW, but I'm fairly certain that there will come a time when he'll be able to walk and run faster and better than non-assisted people.

    Not anytime soon of course, but within 20 years? I'd say yes.

  • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:57PM (#24756373)
    They're the wrong trousers Gromit!
  • by slashname3 (739398) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @05:09PM (#24756529)
    Why did they not add the capability of the segway to balance things and do away with the crutches?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by iamkion132 (1309521)

      Why did they not add the capability of the segway to balance things and do away with the crutches?

      It might have to do with battery life and the potential bulk of the system. Having a stabilizer might be a big drain on the batteries.

    • Because adding a third support is a cheaper solution. (And it would have been cheaper for the Segway too :-P ) Putting on the SHT balancing functionality will mean later, more expensive relief for the wheelchair-bound.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @06:06PM (#24757121)
      Because it's difficult? The Segway doesn't just balance by code, it's a product of having two big, grippy wheels with heavy-duty motors listening to a whole bunch of clever hardware to track the centre of gravity. All that to balance a vehicle which is basically a really heavy board on wheels with a stick out the top. This exoskeleton is an order of magnitude more complex, and no doubt has nowhere near as much torque or traction available to it.
    • by smoker2 (750216)
      Because the guy doesn't have wheels ?
  • What? No space to hide a big automatic gun inside the leg? That's a deal braker for me.

  • Didn't Stephen Hawking do this like 10 years ago?

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/39133 [theonion.com]

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M.A.N.T.I.S [wikipedia.org].

    I wonder if this exoskeleton has Tasers installed, and allows the user's brain to interface with computers.
  • YouTube delievers (Score:2, Informative)

    by catxk (1086945)
    ReWalk, soon in a tv shop near you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQRQs-N-ZIM [youtube.com]
  • WTF!? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    WTF is wrong with you people? 77 comments and no "I for one" joke? That's the only reason I even read the article.

    Fine, guess I'll have to do it.

    I for one welcome our new paralyzed, powered exoskeleton-

    Oh fucking forget it already. You people make me sick. This place used to mean something.

  • IIRC, The University of Belgrade did plenty of research into bipedal prosthetics and in the late 1930s even demonstrated such a prosthetic mechanical device being used by an amputee. Alas, WWII came along and kinda messed up the scene for science for a bit. I came across some papers/photos while I was doing research into bipedal robotics more than 10 years ago.

    So... it would appear that it has taken 60 years to redo the work... okay, so it is perhaps a little more practical and portable but this is in no wa

  • by religious freak (1005821) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @07:49PM (#24758121)
    Stairs are around 2:15, but the whole vid is interesting. Looks like movements like sitting and climbing stairs are input by the user by hand. I'd imagine the stairs probably have to be at a predefined slope.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQRQs-N-ZIM [youtube.com]
  • Robocop didn't "wear" anything. He was the suit!
  • I would suspect that over time the lack of tension on the muscles around the joints (especially the knee) will cause the joint to slacken up, eventually causing them not to pivot correctly.

    Gosh I hope it works long term, but I doubt that the joints will adapt...

    • Very interesting. Kind of like the astronauts whose muscles will atrophy without exercise without gravity, except in this case, it's the joints and ligaments.

      Maybe some kind of regular physical therapy limb movement or (yeah, sounds weird...) even electric treatment?
  • Since it enables mobility, it should be called a "Mobile Suit". Now if we can only find enough Gundanium alloy.

  • The system, which requires crutches to help with balance, consists of motorized leg supports, body sensors and a back pack containing a computerized control box and rechargeable batteries

    Imagine how crappy your day would be if your legs ran out of batteries and you didn't have a fully-charged replacement handy.

    Not that I can think of a better solution or anything. It's just fucking hilarious.

  • For USians it is wise to keep in mind that the Mail is little better than the National Enquirer. So crass, patronizing comments and appalling idiocy are to be expected.

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