At first glance it looks like a prop from a Hollywood movie set or maybe even the first version of an Iron Man suit. In reality it’s a suit that is at the forefront of technology with the purpose of restoring lives.
In the midst of one of the greatest technological revolutions in history, Ekso Bionics™ has been pioneering the field of robotic exoskeletons to augment human strength, endurance and mobility. There’s a sense of hope and excitement to learn how companies such as Ekso Bionics are applying the latest technology and engineering to help people rethink current physical limitations and achieve the remarkable.
Founded in Berkley, CA in 2005, Ekso is a ready-to-wear, battery-powered exoskeleton designed for patients with spinal cord injuries and pathologies that inhibit their ability to walk. It is strapped over the user’s clothing. The patient doesn’t bear the weight, however, as the device transfers its 45 lb. load directly to the ground. Each Ekso can be adjusted in a few minutes to fit most people weighing 220 pounds or less, and between 5’2″ and 6’2″, with at least partial upper body strength, and can be adjusted to fit one patient and then another in minutes.
The idea for the medical device emerged after Ekso’s co-founder and CTO, Russ Angold who watched his brother, a former Navy SEAL who suffered a spinal cord injury, regain mechanics in his arm by rebuilding his home. Ekso has helped several people, from military personnel to people unable to walk due to motor vehicle accidents to victims of drunk drivers, its technology designed to give back life.
To date, the company has documented approximately 3 million steps taken by some 1000 patients and has sold 28 of the devices. That’s 3 million steps of hope that would have not been possible without technology with purpose. The price of an Ekso is about $110K and although it’s no pocket change, just as computers were once only available to the tech geniuses, Ekso is expected to similarly be a recognizable name in the health care industry.
The exoskeleton does not make a fashion statement just yet, but how long did it take Tony Sparks to come up with his final design and make Iron Man so cool? The difference between the Hollywood version of Iron Man and Ekso is that we already have our heroes; we just need to suit them up.