Available to the public later this year, rehab clinics trying it out nowThe latest awesome medical device to help the disabled is about to hit the streets later this year, and in ways its users probably never dreamed: the Ekso bionic exoskeleton will allow quadriplegics to walk. Created by Ekso Bionics, the device is a surprisingly slim contraption that consists of a fully-articulated support system that uses electrical impulses and robotic sensors to gently propel users forward, balancing with the help of walking sticks.
The device only works for patients with enough upper-body strength to support themselves, but the very idea of being able to stand on their own feet and move is more than enough for most patients with lower-body paralysis. For now, a physical therapist must help control the suit, signaling each leg to move at the proper time. In future models, however, Ekso plans to embed motion sensors in the walking sticks which would communicate with the legs, allowing users to walk with complete independence.
Ten top U.S. rehabilitation clinics, including Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, have already signed up for the first exoskeleton models. The device will be available for purchase by private citizens later this year. At a cost of about $10,000 each, it won't be cheap, and most insurance companies will likely not cover it. But for many patients, that's a small price to pay to regain a piece of their independence. To see a video of the device in action, check out Ekso's YouTube channel.
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