Time to jump on the exo-train?Mar 08 01:21
For cure-purists, some may still think exoskeletons are not the right direction we should be going in, delivering too many wires and absolutely nothing in the nervous system department, but just think for a moment: What if this is as good as it gets? What if, in our lifetimes at least, they’re our only hope of ever walking again? If that’s the case, and let’s be brutally honest, there’s a 75% chance of that being the inevitable truth, you better start embracing this sci-fi technology asap.
Rex is an exoskeleton out of New Zealand (official site) that shows just how this technology will be satisfying our “from dis to AB “dreams. From its inception, Rex was designed with people with disabilities in mind; no one else. To be more specific, Rex is near-perfectly suited for paraplegics from about the T3 level down. Anyone with a higher injury won’t be able to use it since *some* torso control/balance is required to wear it. As a C6 quad, I can certifingly say this blows, but there’s rumors an exoskeleton with a reinforced torso is in the works. Rex is not approved by the FDA, but it should be soon.
Rex can do a lot of things - walk (albeit slowly. I hope they can safely speed these up one day), walk up inclines, and the most exciting part, it can climb stairs. Unlike the stair-climbing wheelchair the iBot, Rex isn’t limited to stairs with specific dimensions. Rex is a real solution. And a walking exoskeleton gets your legs up and moving in a hardcore way no standing frame or standing wheelchair can do. The back and forth rhythm of walking cannot be replicated. And now with a little mechanic nudge, we can relish in that amazing feeling too.
Maybe the Conservatives have weakened my resolve, maybe it’s the Recession, but I need to embrace a cure I can see and believe in, something I can feasibly grasp. And while Rex is a bulky machine and the fashionista in me worries how all the straps will absolutely ruin how I look in any outfit, i.e. I fear wearing a skirt in that thing like whoa, but at least….at the very least…..it works.
I wonder if it can be programmed to do the tango?
What would you use the Rex for? Where do you think it may disappoint?
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1. Shark7 | Mar 08 04:03
While I think Rex is a bit bulky--I do think the race to come up with better exoskeletons is great for everybody with SCI. So far we have 3 devices, Rex, and eLegs from BerkelyBionics: http://berkeleybionics.com/exoskeletons-rehab-mobility/ and the ReWalk system from Argo medical: http://www.argomedtec.com/products.asp With competition the devices will get sleeker, more practical and closer to the realm of affordability. A chair will always be easier--but an exoskeleton offers the hope of stopping and or reversing osteoporosis. And how cool would it be to be able to stand at a party or concert again?
2. ericsh123 | Mar 08 05:37
Well, Rex is obviously to slow for now and not sure how it would do on uneven ground as are the same problems with the othe exoskeletons. However at least Rex stand on it's own unlike the rewalk and elegs which require hand crutches. Rex is quite a bit more bulky though. Considering that I'm 38yrs. old, there probably will not be a real cure within my lifetime, but it is a possibility that someone will refine one of these exoskeletons so that it is more useful for daily walking up and down hills,stairs, faster (maybe even close to a slow jog). "What would I use REX for?" you ask. Walking of course! Eric S. Williamson T-8/T-9 complete
3. Tiffiny | Mar 09 07:32
@Shark7 - a chair may be less hassle, but if exoskeletons keep getting better over time, ie, smarter, faster, more agile, etc, they may become the easier option :) (here's hoping). And yes, standing at a party would be great. Personally, I'm more jazzed to use it in crowds :) @ericsh123 - I love that Rex requires no crutches too. A slow jog would be fantastic!
4. AztecPrincess | Mar 16 02:30
I am not a pessimist, but I am a realist and I must ask, since when has any manufacturer of devices, mobility aids or anything for the handicapped/disabled ever aimed to make their products affordable or even reasonable? A padded shower chair costing perhaps $20 to $30 at most to make is marked up 400% to 600%. Wheelchairs that cost more than a car. Roho air cushions at around $450 etc. My point being, if it is anything made for the disabled, it is marked up big time to primarily take advantage of Medicare and insurance companies something akin to the $800 hammer. I have never in my 26 plus years in a wheelchair have ever seen the price go down on anything except perhaps a reacher at the 99 cent store (and you get what you pay for). All these manufacturers are interested primarily in the bottom line...PROFIT MARGINS. I know I will never see an exoskeleton or eLegs device priced for people like me of low income to enjoy. I am afraid it is just another raised hope to be crushed.
5. Kareram | Jun 03 04:32
I would love the opportunity to use any of the exoskeletons, with no disappointment. Of course it would not be a cure, but the benefits of the movement alone, both physical and emotional would be awesome. Bring them on!
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.