The wheel may be one of mankind’s greatest inventions, but it’s an unfortunate fact of life for the wheelchair-bound that much of the modern world is built for the upright – from deli counter-tops and store shelves to stairs and escalators.
When Israeli entrepreneur Amit Goffer was left paralyzed after a car accident in 1997 he set about creating “robotic trousers” to replace a wheelchair.
The fruits of his labor are now set to help others with his ReWalk robotic exoskelton set to go on sale from the start of 2011.
Like the REX robotic exoskeleton, ReWalk is a wearable, motorized robotic device that is worn outside the clothing. The motorized legs, which are held in place by leg braces and a harness worn around the waist and shoulders, are powered by a rechargeable battery providing 3.5 hours of use located in a backpack along with a computer. However, unlike the REX exoskeleton which is controlled by a joystick, the ReWalk uses motion sensors to detect the wearer’s movements and translate them into movement of the units’ motorized joints, similar to the eLEGS exoskeleton developed at UC Berkeley.
Unlike the robotic exoskeletons being developed mainly for military use, such as Lockheed Martin’s HULC and Raytheon’s XOS robotic exoskeletons, which are designed to amplify the wearer’s movements giving them increased strength, speed and endurance, ReWalk is controlled by detecting the subtle movements in the user’s center of gravity and upper-body movements.