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Robotics Hardware

Paralyzed Man Walks Again Using Exoskeleton 192

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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  • Re:Stairs? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `'> 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 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 Spatial ( 1235392 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:15PM (#24755845)
    Terminator? Why, Cyberdyne have one of these too, called HAL. []
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:40PM (#24756175)

    Hell, even throw in a USB cable for easier input and flash storage

    Hmm.. If you stored some pirated music files in your bionic arm and the RIAA found out about it, I wonder if they would petition the court to have your arm removed and entered into evidence when they sue you for copyright infringement?

    Pfft, who am I kidding? Of course, they would...

    Now the real question is whether in the future artificial limbs might resemble true cybernetic extensions of our bodies loaded with all kinds of technology that we currently use now in discreet devices like a smart phone. (Think the humans in the Ghost in the Shell that didn't have full body replacements, but just had cybernetic enhancements.) What would happen to you if you flew into the US and the customs agents wanted to confiscate your cybernetic limb to analyze as they can do now with your laptops and other electronic devices? What recourse would you have to prevent such thing?

  • by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:43PM (#24756221)

    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.

  • 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?
  • 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.
  • Re:Pricetag? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ajdecon ( 233641 ) <ajdecon@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @05:40PM (#24756867)
    Health provider? Probably not for a while. "Experimental treatment", after all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 27, 2008 @05:52AM (#24762381)

    That was my first thought too.

    But my *second* thought was that if we understood the nervous system well enough to "jack in" and use his existing muscles as actuators, we would likely be able to just repair his nerve damage instead.

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian