Next-Generation Robotic Exoskeleton May Allow the Paralyzed to Walk Again

First Posted: Feb 05, 2016 07:28 AM EST

An exoskeleton may help the paralyzed to walk again. Until recently, being paralyzed from the waist down meant using a wheelchair to get around. Now, scientists may be changing all that.

In this latest effort, researchers have worked for more than a decade to create robotic exoskeletons that allow those with limited mobility to walk again. This week, they've unveiled a new, lighter and more agile exoskeleton called the Phoenix.

The Phoenix is lightweight, has two motors at the hips and electrically controlled tension settings that tighten when the wearer is standing and swing freely when they're walking. Users can control the movement of each leg and walk up to 1.1 miles per hour by pushing buttons integrated into a pair of crutches. It's also powered for eight hours by a battery pack worn in a backpack.

The Phoenix is actually one the lightest and most accessible exoskeletons to hit the market to date. It can be adjusted to fit varied weights, heights and leg sizes and can be used for a range of mobility hindrances. And it's about half the cost of other exoskeletons at around $40,000.

"We can't really fix their disease," said Homayoon Kazaerooni, one of the researchers, in a news release. "We can't fix their injury. But what it would do is postpone the secondary injuries due to sitting. It gives a better quality of life."

The findings are published in the MIT Technology Review.

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