The Paralyzed Can Walk Again With This Super-Light Robotic Exoskeleton
When a BMX bike accident broke Steve Sanchez’s back a decade ago, he was paralyzed instantly. He has needed a wheelchair ever since. But now he can have more mobility than he ever hoped. With a new powered robotic suit that supports his body and allows him to take slow, controlled steps, Sanchez can walk again.
Sanchez is one of the earliest testers of Phoenix, a super-lightweight, modular exoskeleton developed at the Human Engineering and Robotics Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, over the last five years. A spin-off company called SuitX, created by Berkeley researcher Homayoon Kazerooni, plans to offer the product on sale for adults in the United States as soon as March. It is also developing a version for children with cerebral palsy and several spinal cord-related diseases, which could give them better mobility skills for life during a critical young time period when training is possible.