|(Photograph by Bartholomew Cooke for Time Magazine)|
Yesterday morning, as I was boarding the subway train, I had the good fortune of finding a brand spankin' new copy of the latest National Geographic Magazine. (Why anyone would leave behind something so precious is beyond me, but I digress.) Almost immediately after opening it, one particular article caught my eye. It was entitled "This Suit is Made for Walkin'" and presented a tantalizing bit of information on an invention called eLEGS.
Berkeley Bionics is a California-based company which excels in the production of devices they call "exoskeletons." These light-weight, electronic contraptions conform to the human body, enabling it to do things that would otherwise be impossible. Take their HULC™ (Human Universal Load Carrier) for example, which was introduced in 2008 and licensed to the Lockheed Martin Corporation in 2009, that "provides users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 lbs for extended periods of time." Thanks to built-in micro-computers, the titanium-legged exoskeleton moves in sync with the individual and is also flexible enough to permit crawling and deep squats.
In 2010, Berkeley Bionics unveiled eLEGS, a 45-pound exoskeleton with a strap-on backpack computer that has the ability to enable those afflicted with lower-body paralysis to stand up and walk independently. This incredible innovation utilizes multiple sensors to sustain smooth, natural movement and maintains a walking speed that is dependent upon its user's ability and condition. Although not yet available to the general public, eLEGS is currently being used to complete investigational studies in a handful of rehabilitation centers around the United States. If you or anyone you know is paraplegic, under 6'2" tall, weighs less than 220 pounds and has sufficient upper body strength, then you may be eligible to enroll in Berkeley Bionics's eLEGS training program. For more details, see their information page here.
According to the September issue of the National Geographic Magazine, a more versatile model of eLEGS is scheduled for release by 2013.