New Zealand’s Rex Bionics may not be a household name right now, but that may soon change. The seven year old company has been working on a lower-body exoskeleton that allows paraplegics to walk again.
The mechanism looks a lot more streamlined and sci-fi than you might expect. It seems fairly simple to slip into, requiring only the same movements wheelchair users already perform to transfer in and out of their chair. From there, a series of straps hold the legs in place, while the user pulls himself upright to a standing position.
Movement is controlled via a right-mounted joystick, and while the movement in the embedded video below seems slow, that criticism would surely fade against the thrill of upright mobility. The rechargeable battery lasts two hours on a full charge, and it may be easily swapped out for a fresh one. Worn over clothes, the Rex exoskeleton was designed to be comfortable to be worn all day if desired. The Rex can stand up, walk, move sideways, turn around, go up and down steps, and walk on flat hard surfaces including ramps and slopes.
So what are the drawbacks? First of all, it carries a price of $150,000, and for now it will only roll out in New Zealand. It isn’t known at present how many exoskeletons will initially be available. One can only imagine what innovations this will spark, though one immediately comes to mind: power lifters a la the movie Aliens. Soon, you too will be able to face down giant xenomorphs and save the day! Check out the video below to see the Rex exoskeleton in action.