An exoskeleton is a wearable robotic technology that a person with a mobility disorder or a spinal cord injury can use to stand upright and be partially mobile. The devices are controlled by the users brain or by use of a controller and can allow people without control of their legs to walk up to 100m on flat ground. These technologies stem from inventions developed in the 1900s intended to provide soldiers with super human capabilities and endurance. While those endeavors never fully came to fruition, modern scientists have created similar designs meant for civilians with spinal cord injuries/brain injuries that have left them without the use of their legs.
This technology is currently being used in a variety of settings. Rehabilitation therapists use these technologies in physical rehabilitation for people who have lost the use of their legs. In some cases this tech is used as part of muscle retraining and other times acts more as a substitute for muscle use. This technology is also used by healthcare teams in Japan to assist with elder care; with an aging population and a limited health care work force, these machines can help reduce the number of people needed to lift and transport patients.
While the science behind exoskeletons is very complex, it has a long way to go before becoming ubiquitous. It is also important to recognize the limitations of exoskeletons and that they do not resolve the ever present inaccessibilities in this world that many people with mobility disorders experience.
Provides freedom of movement to individuals
Cannot be used to climb stairs
Potential users often must meet strict criteria such as:
Hands and shoulders can support crutches
Healthy bone density
Skeleton has no fractures
Height between 5’3 and 6’2
Weight does not exceed 100kg (220lbs)
The information on this webpage is meant to act as an introduction to these technologies; one should consider further research and consult medical professionals to determine if this product is a good fit for their circumstance.
Special Consideration: Workflow
Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed.
$ - Under $5
$$ - Between $6 and $50
$$$ - Between $51 and $250
$$$$ - Over $250
HAL-5. Retrieved January 15, 2018, from https://www.cyberdyne.jp/english/
ReWalk 6.0 . (n.d.). Retrieved January 15, 2018, from http://rewalk.com/
Eveleth, R. (2015, August 07). The Exoskeleton's Hidden Burden. Retrieved January 15, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/08/exoskeletons-disability-assistive-technology/400667/
Written by Harrison McNaughtan, Last Revision May 2018