Exoskeletons for Paraplegics Near Clinical Trials

Exoskeletons definitely have military uses, but what about something for regular folks? You might think none of them would need an exoskeleton, but there's an obvious use case: paraplegics.

On Thursday, Berkeley Bionics, an San Francisco Bay Area company founded in 2005, unveiled what it calls eLEGS. eLEGS stands for Exoskeleton Lower Extremity Gait System. eLEGS is designed to help paraplegics stand up and walk on their own.

Berkeley Bionics has previously developed exoskeletons for military use.

The product consists of a pair of "smart crutches" as well as the exoskeleton, which is made of steel and carbon fiber and weighs 45 pounds. The lithium-ion battery packs give the system enough power for six hours of continuous walking.

Although the system is easy to put on, it does require a decent amount of arm and hand strength. eLEGS can be adjusted to fit most people between 5'2" and 6'4" (weighing 220 pounds or less). A weared can achieve, under "ideal circumstances," speeds of up to 2MPH.

Berkeley Bionics intends to use it first at rehabilitation clinics in the United States, beginning in late summer 2011. It is hoped that eLEGS will be available for personal use by 2013.

Most robotic devices in rehabilitation clinics today cost between $250,000 and $400,000. Berkeley Bionics is shooting for a sub-$100,000 price point for eLEGS, although that is still TBD.

You can watch a video demo below. One of the "models" is Amanda Boxtel, who was paralyzed in a skiing accident 18 years ago. She also demo'ed the eLEGS system on Thursday, live in San Francisco.

Tags:  Exoskeleton, Bionics