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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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  • by curmudgeon99 ( 1040054 ) 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 curmudgeon99 ( 1040054 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @04:58PM (#24756383)
    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.
  • 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]
  • 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.

  • by hamster_nz ( 656572 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @09:40PM (#24759281)

    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...

  • by John Meacham ( 1112 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2008 @09:46PM (#24759333) Homepage

    There are already issues in sports with people with prosthetic parts being "too good" at certain tasks. I imagine going forward this will become more and more of an issue. The paralympic games may become where all the action is at in the future.

    http://www.engadget.com/2008/01/17/prosthetic-limbed-runner-disqualified-from-olympics/ [engadget.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 27, 2008 @12:40AM (#24760857)

    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.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982