Berkeley Bionics unveils exoskeleton to help paraplegics

Bionic exoskeleton developer Berkeley Bionics has unveiled eLEGS, an artificially intelligent device that powers paraplegics up to get them standing and walking (photo). The device provides unprecedented knee flexion, which translates into the most natural human gait available in any exoskeleton today, making it better equipped to handle mixed terrains, the company says in a statement. Clinical trials will commence early next year at select rehabilitation clinics in the U.S. A limited release of eLEGS is scheduled during the second half of 2011 at several facilities.

The device can be adjusted to fit most people between 5'2" and 6'4" and weighing 220 lbs or less, in a matter of minutes. Users must be able to self-transfer from their wheelchair. Velcro straps, backpack-style clips and shoulder straps secure eLEGS to the user over their clothing and shoes.

"Many of the 6 million Americans who live with some form of paralysis today were highly active and at the top of their game when they sustained their injury," Bender says in a statement  As they research their options for increased mobility, they discover that wheelchairs are pretty much it. This has been the only alternative--their only hope--for nearly 500 years," he said. "We want to enhance their independence and freedom of movement," he added, "and with eLEGS, they can stand up and walk for the first time since their injury." While most robotic devices in rehabilitation clinics cost between $250,000 and $400,000, according to  However, Berkeley Bionics is shooting for a sub-$100,000 price point for eLEGS.

The company also announced that it has appointed Eythor Bender as its new CEO. He succeeds Homayoon Kazerooni, Berkeley Bionic's co-founding CEO; Kazerooni will now become the company's chairman of the board and chief scientist.

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