We always look at those who run the fastest to be the big winners in marathons, but in the case of the recent London marathon the real winner was Claire Lomas. She took 17 days to complete the marathon thanks to the ReWalker exoskeleton that allowed the beautiful paraplegic to compete in the first place.
In 1997 Dr. Remit Gopher, and Israeli electrical engineer, was in an accident that left him a quadriplegic and for the next ten years he worked hard at designing a device that would allow a paraplegic to walk again. Even though there have been mechanical devices for the past 50 years that could allow them to maneuver, the effort required by the wearer was immense.
Gopher and Argo Medical Technologies (the company that actually makes the ReWalk) CEO Larry Jasinski knew that the only way to make a practical exoskeleton was if the energy requirements for the wearer should be no different than that of a person who wasn't injured in any way.
The design of the ReWalker is such that the robotic exoskeleton attaches to the user's legs and waist, and can bear the weight of both the device and the user. Movement is much the same as using a Segway where the suit is controlled by shifts in the user’s center of gravity. There is a certain amount of training required but that can range from the average of 15 sessions to those that are quite proficient after three days.
One of the important side benefits of the ReWalker is that it can help to reduce certain health conditions due to paraplegia. Many paraplegics experience depleted bone density, diabetes, reduce cardiovascular fitness, severe bowl problems, and rising body fat. In the studies involving the ReWalker and patient health, they are finding that patients are almost all showing reduced body fat and improved cardiovascular functions.
The ReWalker is already available in Europe for 52,500 EUR, and while the price tag may seem high the company believes that the health impact on patients using them will more than pay for the system.
The ReWalker is already being tested in 22 rehabilitation centers in the US. Once they get FDA approval to sell to the public, Argo Medical Technologies believes they will be able to sell the ReWalker for around the 65,000 USD mark.