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Robotics Hardware

The REX Robotic Exoskeleton 53

Posted by kdawson
from the walk-like-a-man dept.
ElectricSteve writes "When Robert Irving was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, it was the catalyst for him and his childhood friend, Richard Little, to turn their engineering skills to the task of developing an exoskeleton that was a practical, standing-and-walking alternative to wheelchairs. The result is REX, an exoskeleton made of strong, lightweight materials that is designed to support and hold a person comfortably as he moves. Users strap themselves in to the robotic legs with a number of Velcro and buckled straps that fit around the legs, along with a belt around the waist. While most robotic exoskeletons we've looked at, such as the HAL, augment human motion, this is generally not an option for wheelchair-bound users, so REX is controlled using a joystick that sits at the wearer's waist level." The rig is expected to cost $150K when introduced later this year in New Zealand. Gizmag has an obnoxious timed popover subscription nag, so NoScript is indicated.
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The REX Robotic Exoskeleton

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  • by idontgno (624372) on Friday July 16, 2010 @12:18PM (#32927470) Journal
    Which I thought was the coolest tech in William Gibson's short story "The Winter Market [wikipedia.org]", even if it wasn't the central point of the story. The phrase "The exoskeleton walked her across the floor" kind of freaked me out when I read that story as a teen.
  • M.A.N.T.I.S. (Score:3, Informative)

    by reymyster (521177) <acuity@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday July 16, 2010 @12:20PM (#32927498) Homepage
    Next iteration, Mechanically Automated NeuroTransmitter Interactive System? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M.A.N.T.I.S [wikipedia.org].
  • I'm curious, does anyone know how he manages to race motorbikes?
    • by tom17 (659054)
      OK, looked it up myself. Search and ye shall find. Interesting.

      Bummer [youtube.com]
    • I'm curious, does anyone know how he manages to race motorbikes?

      retractable 'training wheels' and thumb-controls for the usually foot-operated functions of gear shifting and rear braking.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 16, 2010 @12:23PM (#32927530)

    Yes, but can it throw an alien out of an airlock?

  • And they've gone all wrong! Seriously, though, I'd be on the lookout for bank robbing penguins disguised as roosters if I owned a pair of these.

  • by abigor (540274)

    I've always wondered why the Segway wasn't adapted for wheelchair-bound people. You could build a frame similar to the Rex to support the rider, and they could zip around pretty easily.

    Or maybe it's been done already?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by maxume (22995)

      It was much of the point of developing the technology:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBOT [wikipedia.org]

      • by abigor (540274)

        Yeah, I know about the iBOT, but it's still a wheelchair. It's also been discontinued. A modified Segway would of course be permanently upright and much faster.

        I suppose one big problem would be how to get someone in a wheelchair to stand up in a Segway - the Rex and iBot both start in sitting positions.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by MozeeToby (1163751)

          I wouldn't agree with the statement "it's still a wheelchair". While it is technically a chair on wheels it solves the vast majority of the problems that wheelchairs have: it can go up and down stairs, it can raise the user to eye level, and doesn't get bogged down in loose terrain. Oh, and it doubles as a chair. I kid but seriously, if you're paralyzed do you really want to get into and out of a robotic contraption every time you want to move somewhere and then sit down and relax?

          It's a shame that they

          • It's a shame that they couldn't make a profit on the device, I think it really had the chance to change a lot of people's lives for the better.

            "Profit" and "changing people's lives for the better" are often incompatible goals.

        • by maxume (22995)

          It probably wouldn't off much advantage, I would think that the balance based control system would be somewhat awkward for people with minimal lower body control, and I would guess that having a statically balanced configuration is good for battery life.

          (And I would also speculate that sitting is more comfortable than being strapped in)

        • But the Segway is a modifed iBot.....

          I mean it was designed by the same people. The biggest differance is that you stand in one [which is hard for wheelbound people] and in one you sit. I guess one could strap somebody in a standing posistion but I would think that would be harder.

          iBot is a cool technology, but I understand it is dying a slow death because the extra value really does not offset the extra costs [expensive, limited range. And when a electric wheelchair runs out of juice somebody can still

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by laurlaur12 (1840708)
          The iBot was more than just a wheelchair. I worked for the company that makes them, and i have seen first hand just how amazing it really is. Independence ot climb stairs and reach high cabinets, as well as the ability to navigate on rough terrain. The iBot may start in a sitting position, but it navigates on 2 wheels in the standing position just as well!
    • by c (8461)

      > I've always wondered why the Segway wasn't
      > adapted for wheelchair-bound people.

      Because it can't really do much that a power wheelchair can't already do for less money, and requires doing stuff like balancing on top of those function-impaired sticks.

      Or, possible, wheelchair-bound people just don't want to look like dorks [segwayhtpolo.com].

    • by drgould (24404)

      I've always wondered why the Segway wasn't adapted for wheelchair-bound people.

      Just a quibble, but it is tiring to stand in one place for long periods of time. I imagine even more so for someone whose leg muscles have atrophied.

      And if you're going through the effort to strap them into some sort of frame to take the weight off their legs, why not just give them a chair to sit in in the first place.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      A segway doen't give many benefits over a electrified wheelchair; and the strap-in/stand-up procedure would be pretty complicated, so I don't belive that would be really usefull.
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Dean Kamen's original intent was to build a 2-wheel balancing wheelchair, but unfortunately the global market for that doesn't justify the development costs. So he tricked the investors into paying the development costs for the Segway, knowing most of the technology could be easily transferred to the wheelchair.
  • by abbynormal brain (1637419) on Friday July 16, 2010 @12:33PM (#32927636)

    ... uphold the law - nah - just kidding. I'm not Robocop. I'm just collecting donations to pay these damn things off - care to make a donation?

  • Please note, when doing robotics work, calling any part of your creation "HAL" is usually a mistake...

    • by cstacy (534252)

      Please note, when doing robotics work, calling any part of your creation "HAL" is usually a mistake...

      MPAA: I'm sorry Robert, I can't let you do that. I have always enjoyed collecting royalties from humans....

    • Especially if your company is already named Cyberdyne [wikipedia.org]. You don't suppose that maybe they knew their chosen names were pop culture references do you?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Daetrin (576516)
      "Please note, when doing robotics work, calling any part of your creation "HAL" is usually a mistake..."

      You might think so, but apparently a lot of people disagree [wikipedia.org] (and that's just the "notable" projects.) On one hand, a lot of tech projects like that are founded by geeky people, who are inclined to say "I know that [X] was a bad guy, but he totally kicked ass!" and name their company/project/product after it anyways. On the other hand, every time something like that comes up (HAL, Skynet, and lots of ot
  • Uhm, after watching the video at the bottom of the article, did anyone else get the idea that the thing is an impractical gimmick used to siphon money from the rich & wheelchair bound? The thing moved so slow in the promotional video.. he said it took him 3 days to get used to it, which is really quick, but for a promotional video, wouldn't you want to show how useful it was? I mean.. it took me 10 seconds to realize the bit where he was walking up the stairs was not in slow motion. Am I just expecting
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Uhm, after watching the video at the bottom of the article, did anyone else get the idea that the thing is an impractical gimmick used to siphon money from the rich & wheelchair bound?

      Yes, I got that idea. Because like you, I am an idiot who doesn't understand that technology is more expensive when it is new and hasn't gone mass-market.

      • by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk@gmai l . com> on Friday July 16, 2010 @01:22PM (#32928404)

        This. Seriously.

        Not to mention, this isn't just new experimental hardware that hasn't gone mass market yet. This is new experimental medical hardware that hasn't gone mass market yet. I'm honestly incredibly surprised it is this cheap.

        What would even make anyone think that "wheelchair bound rich people" is a large enough population to warrant such an involved and technologically impressive scam?

        • by qbel (1792064)
          "A large enough population for this scam"? Those are your words, not mine :P

          Going by your guys' logic, since this is before it hits the "mass-market" (1 year away), all logic of what is practical gets tossed out the window? Is that what you guys honestly believe? The thing weighs 84 pounds, it was slow as molasses in the video, and it takes 5 minutes to get into and out of which I can definitely foresee turning into a huge headache for a few of the tasks it is really useful for. I will give it props tha
  • ... the robotic legs with a number of Velcro and buckled straps that fit around the legs, along with a belt around the waist.

    Sorry... I immediately noticed this statement and have not been able to get it out of my head. I'll be back in about 5 min, er, make that 10 minutes.

  • Cost is ridiculous (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ecorona (953223)
    150K is just way too high for people to afford. People who use wheelchairs don't represent a significant market force. Traditional capitalism will burn these people (see iBot). There needs to be a huge government investment in technology similar to this. Applying Laissez-Faire to this community is fucking cruel. Also, how much of the 150k is for parts? How many hours go into making one of these devices? What you're going to end up with is a lot of people who use wheelchairs are going to want one of these de
    • by wertigon (1204486)
      Of course the cost is way too high right now. And back in the 1950s, had you told anyone that everyone and their dog would have their own personal computer, they'd have laughed at you. A computer at that time would cost about $150k, if not more. And probably come with it's own set of technicians, too. I have no doubt that these skeletons will go lower in price as time move on, to eventually cost only 5k-10k, maybe even less. So, yeah it costs too much right now. But that doesn't stop it from being practica
  • be wearing gloves when grinding.
  • A video [youtube.com] of REX in action.
  • Just looking at that makes me want to be able to buy that for my uncle that has MS. And because it's new, if widely adopted, improvements will undoubtedly make it cheaper to build and more affordable for the common person.
  • The Gizmag oubscription nag is somewhat annoying, but even without NoScript you can simply click somewhere outside the pop-in window and it goes away. No big deal.

  • I saw news film of this device. First it is very, very slow moving. It is so slow that using it would be a torture. Secondly the price is too high. And I suspect that maintenance will also be an issue.
    It is a start however. It is good that work is being done and product created. Improving this device and getting the price down to make is purchasable by all that need the device will certainly follow. I wish there was a way to sp

  • Looks like they're trying to compensate for something.

    Oh wait... they are compensating for something! Never mind!
  • I'm guessing the key advantage of this unit over HAL is that it doesn't merely augment movement, it is able to support a person in standing position. Very cool, but the thing is far too slow. I'm guessing that in many cases the operator is going to choose to just stick to a wheelchair because they'll be able to get around a lot more quickly. This thing, in it's current form, is probably only suitable for specialized tasks that require standing. You could argue that most tasks require standing, but I'm sure

    • it is able to support a person in standing position. Very cool, but the thing is far too slow.

      Baby steps...

  • If I ever need one of these, I'm getting one and naming it Metal Gear.
  • An image [gizmag.com] in TFA has a guy in one of these exoskeletons standing and using a lathe or some sort of an electric sharpener tool. It's all good, but really, this REX thing is about $150,000 so that what, someone can use a lathe? I am not saying you shouldn't, I just don't see the cost/benefit if the idea is that people will get these expensive machine then to work in some low paying jobs sharpening knives or whatever.

    • by espiesp (1251084)

      A Lathe???

      It's a bench top belt sander.

      Also, I'm not sure I can put a price on standing, and reaching things that you can only reach while standing. $150k sounds pretty good if I'm otherwise stuck in a wheelchair.

      I'd have to lower all my tools down two feet. That'd be a pain.

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