eLegs – The Future of Wheelchairs

March 27, 2011 at 10:31 pm Leave a comment

Eythor Bender at his recent TED Talks demonstration.

Many of today’s newest and greatest technologies have developed faster than anyone could have ever imagined. It seems that internet start-ups are beginning every second, and it is hard to keep with the newest technology. There are certain technologies that have not experienced much change, and the wheelchair is one of them. In fact, the wheelchair has been in existence for over 500 years.  It is amazing that in that amount time no significant advances have been developed. Eythor Bender may have finally come up with the perfect solution, and it has a number of great applications.

In his recent demonstration of the technology, he first focused on the problem faced by many of today’s soldiers. According to Bender, the average soldier currently carries approximately 100 lbs for very long distances.  The amount is also slowly increasing per year. As a result, 30% of soldiers currently suffer from chronic back injuries. To help with this growing problem, Bender and his team have created the Human Universal Load Carrier. (HULC) The invention supposedly allows soldiers to now carry 200 lbs over varied terrain for hours.

So how does it work exactly? Bender describes the invention as a wearable robot that empowers users with extra

Demonstration of the HULC

strength. The HULC is an exoskeleton, which looks like a metal backpack combined with leg crutches. The metal contraption is much more than it seems. As the demonstration solider explained , ” [it] senses what I want to do, where I want to go, and augments my strength and endurance.” Bender claims that the integration of man and machine can increase speed and balance. The flexible design of the exoskeleton also allows users to still squat, crawl, and complete other highly agile movements. The best part of the machine is that is not a concept only reserved for science fiction magazines. According to Bender, his company and industry partner will have the device ready for full production in under a year.

Of course one of the inventions greater purposes, as pointed out in the beginning of this article is the potential alternative to the wheelchair. In the second product demonstration, the product was worn by a disabled women who has not had the ability to walk in over 19 years. This version of the device differed slightly from the HULC, and was called eLegs. The disabled demonstrator had a pair of forearm crutches in addition to the exoskeleton. The forearm crutches sent a relay messages to the exoskeleton’s computer located in the individual’s backpack. Using the on board battery packs, the computer then sent signals to extend and retract the motorized hips and knee cap regions of the eLegs. Witnessing the demonstrator walk across the stage was truly inspiring, and could be a potential solution for the 68 million wheelchair users worldwide.

The six minute presentation was mind blowing. Whether users are seeking for super human stamina and balance or simply the chance to walk again, Eythor Bander and his team may have found the perfect solution. The exoskeleton is non-evasive, which means anyone could buy one and installation would be similar to putting on a pair of shoes in the morning. Hopefully this concept quickly becomes a reality, because  potentially great impact may result.

For a full video of the demonstration check out this link .

Do not forget to take the quiz!

– Paul

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