Well, it’s official. We’re living in the future. Or the future is here. One of those two. With the amount of technological advances we’ve made in the past few years, medical or otherwise, we’ve reached a level that even a couple of years ago would have been described as science fiction.
We’ve come so far. We have developed fully functional prosthetic arms, ways to 3D print functioning organs, we can grow corneas, we’re planning on travelling to Mars and you can get your notifications on your watch. And now, with the efforts of a team of scientists from the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering, the Indego exoskeleton will allow you to walk again.
Ten year old project
Known as Indego, the exoskeleton developed by a team of researchers over the course of ten years might be just what many paraplegics would need in order to walk again. It was just approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for country-wide personal and clinical use.
Developed by mechanical engineering professor Michael Goldfarb as part of his Center for Intelligent Mechatronics lab, the exoskeleton was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. 2012 saw the Parker Hannifin Corporation buy the exclusive rights to the Indego and Goldfarb worked with a team of students and engineers since then to finish the project.
Strap yourself in
Being available for use by people who’ve lost the use of their lower limbs, the Indego exoskeleton can be strapped tightly to the patient’s torso. The legs are then strapped with very steady supports extending in two portions – from the hips to the knees and from the knees to the feet.
With the use of electric motors working as knee and hip joints, the users can control the powerful battery powered exoskeleton via a computer. Crutches on the users’ forearms can be used for balance while standing up and walking.
Segway with legs
In order to make the device less bulky, the team designed it to take up as little space as possible, and even made it easily removable while sitting down. The inventor actually described the exoskeleton as a Segway with legs because of the way it’s controlled.
The wearers can lean forward in order to walk forward, they can sit down by leaning back and maintaining the position and they can stand back up by leaning forward while sitting down and holding the position. So far, the people who’ve worn it are very happy with the product.
Completing the largest ever clinical trial for an exoskeleton in the United States, the developers said that the Indego allowed patients to walk on multiple surfaces, both indoors and outdoors. Since it was approved by the FDA, the device will soon become commercially available.
Image source: YouTube