Robot-enhanced humans no longer science fiction: exoskeleton

Robot-enhanced humans no longer science fiction: exoskeleton

From paraplegics able to stand, to stroke victims walking again, robotic exoskeletons which wrap around the body could transform movement

Visions of humans running in exoskeletons able to move faster, jump higher and hit harder from films like Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow are no longer science fiction but a reality.

What started out as a military tool helping soldiers carry large loads has spawned applications in medicine, rehabilitation, construction and in the near future, possibly even sports.

“We see the world of robotics as having a giant wave of human augmentation coming right at it,” said Nate Harding, chief executive and co-founder of Ekso Bionics at CES in Las Vegas. “People will be running faster, jumping further and grannies will be showing off their new hip exoskeleton.”

Harding was speaking at a conference discussing the future of robotics and brought with him a working exoskeleton that allowed paraplegic 22-year-old Shane Mosko from Connecticut, to stand up and walk, stunning the audience.

“It’s about wrapping a robot around a person,” explained Harding. “In the case of Shane, he’s able to get up and walk without assistance. We know it will have a very positive affect on the long term health of people who are stuck in wheel chairs.”

The exoskeleton ran down Mosko’s legs to feet plates, powered by a small backpack and controlled partially through two walking sticks used to aid balance.

“I’ve been using this device for about two years, and it didn’t take long to get to where I can walk,” explained Mosko while walking backwards and forwards across the stage.

“I’m paralysed and I’m not supposed to be up and walking, but being at eye level with you all. With this device it’s a possibility.

“With this device I can really work on building strength where I have it. I can basically walk as long as the batteries will allow, which is not possible with some of the other fixed knee solutions. This is only the beginning and there’s so much further we can go. ”

A model wears an exoskeleton (left), while another model shows an exoskeleton developed in Japan (right). Photos: AP, SCMP

The exoskeleton has been designed to help paraplegics gain mobility, but also to help stroke victims learn how to walk again. It is controlled by buttons on a set of walking sticks, but also with the weight of the wearer.

Leaning forward in natural walking stances, while rocking side to side, triggers the steps in a very human-like non-robotic way.

The exoskeleton detects how much power a person is putting in and fills the shortfall to maintain stability, but also to help people build their strength where they have it.

“Our technology started in the military, carrying heavy loads and with our partners Lockheed Martin we’re still doing that. But we melded technologies from people for athletics and people with paralysis to aid people with stroke to walk again,” said Harding.

“Now we’re looking at industrial applications – for construction crews holding heavy tools or working on overhead surfaces. In five years you’ll see exoskeletons on the building site and on the medical side, someone with paralysis will be using one to get around a party.”

Ekso Bionics is not the first firm to help a paraplegic person walk in a mechanical exoskeleton. The ReWalk device, made by Argo Medical Technologies, has been available in Europe since 2012. In June, it was cleared for sale by US regulators.

ReWalk weighs 21kg, only 2.3kg of which users feel in the form of a backpack containing a computer and power supply, according to Argo, based in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

The personal system costs US$69,500 each according to retailers.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

Published by

Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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