November 15, 2010
Robot helps woman walk.
Source: CNN, with additional information from Berkeley Bionics
… but for Amanda Boxtell, who has been paralyzed for 18 years following a skiing accident, the new-mobility provided to her with her new eLegs is exciting, especially for CNN’s Ali Velshi. Developed by Berkeley Bionics, the eLegs were introduced on 7-Oct-2010. I haven’t seen or heard of these legs until November 10, at 12:45 PM EST, when I saw the CNN broadcast for the first time. You can see the video on CNN’s site if the vid above doesn’t work.
The system is rather clunky, requiring a couple of crutches/canes to act as input for the legs, but it brings Amanda one step closer (literally) to full mobility. At least, it gets her out of her wheelchair.
Iron Man or HULC? Berkeley Bionics should know something about robotic exoskeletons; They also developed one for the US military called the Human Universal Load Carrier, or HULC, which they licensed to Lockeed-Martin:
The HULC is a completely un-tethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton that provides users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 lbs for extended periods of time and over all terrains. Its flexible design allows for deep squats, crawls and upper-body lifting. There is no joystick or other control mechanism. The exoskeleton senses what users want to do and where they want to go. It augments their ability, strength and endurance. An onboard micro-computer ensures the exoskeleton moves in concert with the individual. Its modularity allows for major components to be swapped out in the field. Additionally, its unique power-saving design allows the user to operate on battery power for extended missions. The HULC’s load-carrying ability works even when power is not available.
I suspect that the eLegs were developed from HULC technology. Hopefully they won’t come with 20mm folding-fin rocket launchers, although Lockheed-Martin is looking to adapt the HULC for industrial use (like Ripley’s loader suit) and medical applications.
Meanwhile, Raytheon Sarcos is developing its own robosuit for soldiers. Also clunky, as it still needs to be tethered to a power source:
Still waiting for Tony Stark. What we’re looking at are first-generation robo-suits. Naturally, they will get better as the technology advances, so a real Iron Man is years away. Now we have time to save up for when such suits are made available at our favorite outfitters. (To give you an idea, Raytheon’s suit is projected to cost $150K US).