In the 2013 movie Elysium, audience members were introduced to technology of the year 2154, including a futuristic looking mechanical exoskeleton that not only helped Matt Damon’s character walk, but save the day as well. But while this movie was a work of science fiction, the mechanical exoskeleton seen in the movie is not as far out of reach as we might think and could help people with spinal cord injuries regain their mobility in the near future.
Researchers and engineers at Ekso Bionics have created just such a device that utilizes built-in sensors to detect a person’s weight shifts to initiate movement. The huge advancement was tested recently by a former Army special ops officer who used the device in New York this month to walk around the Statue of Liberty. This was a particularly amazing event because he has been paralyzed the waist down and wheel-chair bound since 2008.
While the exoskeleton suit is currently only in trial phases at certain hospitals for patients with spinal cord injuries and those who have suffered strokes, the soldier mentioned above is the first veteran to receive the suit for personal use. But even though the suit can provide huge improvements to the large number of people with mobility issues, the price tag of $100,000 might deter anyone from requesting one anytime soon.
Though researchers believe that the price will go down as the technology gets better, the device could still be an expense that many people might not plan for financially, especially after suffering a serious injury. As a result, people filing personal injury claims might start considering this in the future when calculating compensatory damages.
Source: WPTV News, “Ekso Bionics exoskeleton allows Gary Linfoot, paraplegic Veteran, to walk,” Pat Etheridge, Nov. 12, 2013