Paraplegic or handicapped people who don’t have use of their legs have likely seen robotic machines designed to help the wheelchair-bound stand at eye-level again. These various prototypes or finished products have found their way to experimental uses or medical therapy purposes, but none had been approved for personal use at home.
The ReWalk-Personal exoskeleton just got the very first stamp of approval by the Food and Drug Administration, making it the first and only version of the standing-assist robot that has been approved for personal use, according to Slashgear.
The FDA approved the ReWalk-P system, produced by Israel’s Argo Medical Technologies Ltd., because the agency recognized the utility of machines that can give those with limited mobility the chance to move around at will again.
The ReWalk-P allows people with partial paralysis to stand, walk and even climb stairs again without the spasticity, discomfort and other limitations of traditional alternatives, according to Daily Tech. The gadget – which consists of wearable robotic leggings, a backpack and a wearable smartwatch-style control panel — is still a bit bulky, but is much more streamlined than the brain-controlled exoskeleton showcased at the 2014 World Cup.
[F]ortunately the actual machine won’t remind you of sci-fi juggernauts or bulky military equivalents. It does weigh 46 lbs itself and has a 5-lb backpack which houses the brains and battery of the exoskeleton. As for those brains, it runs on Windows and responds to physical buttons on a wrist device. ReWalk Robotics, the company behind the machine, advertises the battery to last a whole day with on and off walking, but continuous mobility will drain it in three or four hours.
Though ReWalk-Personal has been cleared for home use, it may be tough for those would benefit most to get their hands on it. The unit starts at $69,500, and the approved model has height and weight requirements; for now it can only support people between 5 feet, 3 inches and 6 feet, 3 inches in height and who weigh less than 220 pounds.
If interested buyers pass the physiological and financial hurdles, they’ll still have to withstand 15 training sessions to ensure they are capable of operating the exoskeleton before they are cleared to use it.
Check out the system in action:
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter