When Michael Gore stands, it's a triumph of science and engineering. Eleven years ago, Gore was paralyzed from the waist down in a workplace accident, yet he rises from his wheelchair to his full 6-foot-2-inches and walks across the room 
with help from a lightweight wearable robot.

The technology has many nicknames. Besides "wearable robot," the inventions also are called "electronic legs" or "powered exoskeletons." This version, called Indego, is among several competing products being used and tested in U.S. rehab hospitals that hold promise not only for people such as Gore with spinal injuries, but also those recovering from strokes or afflicted with multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.

Still at least a year away from the market, the 27-pound Indego is the lightest of the powered exoskeletons. It snaps together from pieces that fit into a backpack. The goal is for the user to be able to carry it on a wheelchair, put it together, strap it on and walk independently. None of the products, including the Indego, are yet approved by federal regulators for personal use, meaning they must be used under the supervision of a physical therapist.
Jennifer French (center) questions Michael Gore (2nd l.) during a meeting of the American Spinal Injury Association at a downtown hotel in Chicago. Eleven years ago, Gore was paralyzed from the waist down in a workplace accident, but with the aid of the 27-pound gadget that snaps together from pieces that fit into a backpack he stands and walks with the assistance of science and engineering.

M. SPENCER GREEN/AP

Jennifer French (center) questions Michael Gore (2nd l.) during a meeting of the American Spinal Injury Association at a downtown hotel in Chicago. Eleven years ago, Gore was paralyzed from the waist down in a workplace accident, but with the aid of the 27-pound gadget that snaps together from pieces that fit into a backpack he stands and walks with the assistance of science and engineering.

Gore, 42, of Whiteville, N.C., demonstrated the device this week at the American Spinal Injury Association meeting in Chicago, successfully negotiating a noisy, crowded hallway of medical professionals and people with spinal injuries in wheelchairs.

When he leans forward, the device takes a first step. When he tilts from side to side, it walks. When Gore wants to stop, he leans back and the robotic leg braces come to a halt. Gore uses forearm crutches for balance. A battery in the hip piece powers the motors in the robotic legs.
"Being able to speak with you eye-to-eye is just a big emotional boost," Gore said to a reporter. "Being able to walk up to you and say hello is not a big thing until you cannot do it."


Read More..

.

Comment