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Advancing Human Motion with Ekso

March 20th, 2013

The Six Million Dollar Man featured a storyline based in science fiction, but it brought the concept of bionics — a term first coined in the late 1950s — into the cultural consciousness. Here in the 21st Century, a company is making bionics a reality improving lives, and enhancing the capabilities of the human body. An actual “Steve Austin” now isn’t only a figment of the Hollywood imagination.

Ekso Bionics for the Human Endeavor

Ekso Bionics was formed in 2005 by three partners who worked together at the Berkeley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory, at the University of California. Reflecting its origins, the company was originally called Berkeley ExoWorks. The company took its current moniker in 2011.

The company’s first two products were called the ExoHiker and the ExoClimber; both products were essentially, a bionic skeleton to be worn by a human. They enhance the ability of a person to carry up to 150 pounds while hiking, with the latter product providing additional climbing capabilities. An attached battery offers 80 watt-hours of power, while an optional solar panel allows unlimited use.

In 2009, the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) was introduced, providing an evolutionary advancement from Ekso’s original two offerings. Up to 200 pounds could now be carried, and a more sophisticated exoskeleton reduced the overall energy spent by the wearer. Interested in its military applications, Lockheed Martin licensed the HULC for future development. 

Allowing Paraplegics to Walk Again

Ekso Bionics’ most recent product is the Ekso, a wearable exoskeleton that gives paraplegics the ability to stand and walk again. It is a battery-powered exoskeleton that fits over the wearer’s clothing. Weighing around 50 pounds, the weight of the Ekso gets transferred into the ground, so the wearer doesn’t have to support the device.

The Ekso comes with a remote control that allows a physical therapist to assist the wearer when they are first getting used to walking with the device. The Ekso is currently in clinical trials, so it must be used in a medically supervised environment, but Ekso Bionics expects to produce a personal model for home use in 2014.

Advancements in engineering continue to make the world a better place to live. Do you want to change the world through engineering? If so, contact The Talley Group. As one of the leading engineering recruiting firms in the Northwestern US, they are the right people to further your engineering career.

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