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Medicine Robotics Hardware Technology

Instead of a Wheel Chair, How About an Exoskeleton? 232

New submitter the_newsbeagle writes "This year, Ekso Bionics will roll out its most sophisticated exoskeleton ever. The company's robotic walking suit, called the Ekso, allows paraplegics to get back on their feet and walk on their own. The first commercial model will be sold to rehab hospitals for on-site physical therapy, but the company plans to have a model ready for at-home physical therapy by the end of 2012. In a few years, they plan to sell an Ekso that a paraplegic person can wear to the post office, to work, etc."
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Instead of a Wheel Chair, How About an Exoskeleton?

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  • Awesome, but.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @01:22PM (#38573728)

    I still consider it a transitionary solution, useful, but only until we can grow organs and nerve tissue and basically fix people like we fix machinery :)

  • Re:Awesome, but.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @01:40PM (#38574054) Homepage

    I still consider it a transitionary solution, useful, but only until we can grow organs and nerve tissue and basically fix people like we fix machinery :)

    It's interesting you think that, as it's rather the opposite of the trend of science-fiction and posthumanist fantasizing.

    For the former, Larry Niven's Known Space universe (such as the tales in Flatlander [] ) had organ transplantation as a widely implemented medical solution (amusingly leading to the death penalty for even minor crimes), but eventually ended by alloplasty, "gadgets instead of organs".

    For the latter, Ray Kurzweil and his fans hope that we'll be able to upload our brains into computers any day now. And that's understandable, since a civilization that has technology advanced enough to produce new biological parts in vitro may be on the cusp of transcending biology entirely.

  • Re:Awesome, but.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ( 1706780 ) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:01PM (#38574322)

    That would take the term "Blue Screen of Death" to a whole new level.

  • Re:Awesome, but.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:11PM (#38574496)
    98% of the atoms on your body are replaced ever year [], whether or not you take a ride in a transporter. So, "you" are not a certain set of particles, but rather a self-propagating pattern.
  • Re:Awesome, but.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @05:16PM (#38577122)

    I've always thought something like that would make an awesome plot for a Sci-Fi movie -- people use transporters to go everywhere, multiple times per day, but the reality is that you end up with two conscious copies of the same person, and the old one gets automatically destroyed once the copy and replication is complete. The new copy steps out at the other end feeling like the teleportation worked flawlessly, and the old person (itself a multi-Nth copy of the person who was born years earlier) stands in the booth wondering why it's not working, until he gets killed and vaporized (with people who've seen the process believing it's part of the teleportation process, instead of a purely destructive clean-up act, and very few genuinely understanding what's really going on... because nobody would ever step into such a booth knowing that they themselves were going to effectively die, even if their "consciousness" lived on after replication elsewhere).

    Now, imagine a teleporter whose "destructor" system fails after working well enough to injure (instead of kill) someone who just teleported, and leaves him convinced that terrorists are systematically murdering people -- and has no idea that it's now teleportation machines are *intended* to work, and eventually manages to teleport home from work after a visit to the hospital, only to run into himself#2.n, who just uneventfully teleported home from work after a perfectly normal day that included about a half-dozen teleportations that worked "without incident".

    Now, stir in some extra details to make it a real story... engineers who stumbled on the truth while trying to reverse-engineer the process for a start-up competitor (who were summarily committed to a mental institution, because at that point, teleporters had been used by everyone multiple times per day since birth, and the whole *idea* that teleportation == death was viewed as ludicrous... were hospitalized, then truly went insane after being forcibly teleported multiple times per day at the mental hospital (knowing each time what was really happening to them). Add a legal system completely unprepared to deal with both the consequences of having two copies of the same person, and a society where all other forms of transportation had effectively ceased to exist and teleportation was literally the only way to travel more than a few thousand feet (even elevators were replaced by teleporters by that time, and stairs were increasingly uncommon).

    Fun stuff ;-)

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead