Robot Legs for the Paralyzed Coming

SAN ANTONIO, Oct. 4 (UPI) — An Israeli company says it hopes to have a wearable “walker” on the market by the second half of 2011 that will allow paralyzed persons freedom of movement.

The ReWalk, developed by Argo Medical Technologies, consists of lightweight leg supports with motorized hip and knee joints, equipped with tilt sensors and a computer worn as a backpack, the San Antonio Express-News reported Monday.

Once strapped in, the wearer leans forward, and tilt sensors signal the computer to move the motorized joints of one “leg” and move it forward. As the wearer continues to lean, the other leg takes a step and the process of walking begins.

In an eight-week trial beginning in August, patients have spent several hours at a time three or four times a week testing the ReWalk.

Elaine Loyola has been one of them. The gymnast and cheerleader at a Texas high school was 16 when she was paralyzed from her rib cage down in a 2008 one-car rollover accident.

She says she’d love to someday own a ReWalk. Her mother is already teasing her about planning fundraisers, she says.

“I tell friends that the ReWalk is like an early version of the cell phone,” she says. “They used to be big as a brick. Today, they’re small and sleek, like an iPhone.”

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