N.Zealand inventors unveil bionic legs for paraplegics (w/ Video)

Jul 16, 2010
This undated handout picture released by Rex Bionics shows Hayden Allen using bionic legs called Rex in Wellington, New Zealand. Two New Zealand inventors have produced what they claim are the world's first robotic legs to help paraplegics walk again.

Two New Zealand inventors have produced what they claim are the world's first robotic legs to help paraplegics walk again.

The bionic legs were road-tested publicly for the first time Thursday by 23-year-old Hayden Allen who was told five years ago he would never walk again after being paralysed from the chest down in a motorcycle accident.

Allen said the experience of being able to stand up and walk when strapped into his robotic legs was fantastic and he felt like a normal human being again.

"It will be a big benefit from a social aspect, being able to talk to someone at the same eye level," he told reporters.

Inventors Richard Little and Robert Irving, two ex-patriate Scottish engineeers who emigrated in the early 1990s, came up with the idea seven years ago and have spent 10 million dollars (7.1 million US) developing it.

Called Rex (robotic exoskeleton) the 38 kilogram (84 pound) joy-stick operated were inspired by the movie "Aliens" in which the character Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) climbs into a robotic exoskeleton to fight an alien.

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Rex is "a realistic standing and walking alternative to wheelchairs," the inventors said on their website Rexbionics.com.

"It enables the user to climb up and down stairs, sit, stand, and step backwards, sideways and forwards -- providing the opportunity for people in wheelchairs who want to walk, to do just that."

However, Rex comes with a hefty price tag of 150,000 US dollars and at present is only available in New Zealand although the inventors said it would be sold worldwide from next year.

Rex Bionics, which now employs 25 mechatronic and sofware engineers, believes demand will outstrip supply for the next few years and they have already had enquiries suggesting people will pay up to 250,000 US dollars.

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User comments : 14

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Bob_Kob
5 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2010
So if it can "It enables the user to climb up and down stairs, sit, stand, and step backwards, sideways and forwards", why didn't the video show this? I don't mean to be pessimistic, but all I saw was the person standing in one spot.

From the video i dont even know if it can move around...
JavaTheHut
2.5 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2010
Exactly Lets see the trials not this fluff!
nada
3 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2010
"Tell me the truth. Does this make me look fat?"
JustTheFacts
1 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2010
Is anyone else thinking what I'm thinking, rogue device making you go places and do stuff you didn't want to, ala 'Wallace and Gromit, The Wrong Trousers'? Watch out for penguins...
trekgeek1
5 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2010
$150,000???

I'd like to see the cost breakdown. It seems that it can be built with a kick ass cpu, a torn apart segway transport for gyros, some actuators, and a battery. It's by no means simple, but if you can buy an electric sports roadster for 100,000, I don't see how they are coming up with this price tag.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2010
Wow, what a concept. Imagine expanding zero energy to get around. I can see people someday standing in line to get their legs cut off. This world is crazy enough.
BrentT
5 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2010
Have a look at the company's website as there are more videos that show it going up and down stairs, sitting and standing etc. I made the carbon fibre parts for these and I can tell you that nearly every part is custom, as off the shelf parts aren't suitable. Walking is a complex movement, if it was easy there would already be a product like this on the market or someone will make a competing product tomorrow.

I have also seen it move faster than in the videos.
MishZor
not rated yet Jul 16, 2010
@trekgeek1: What price would you pay to walk again if you'd lost the use of your legs? It may seem like a hefty price tag to some, but its obvious people are willing to pay almost double that to walk again. I did some research on this "electric sports roadster", but for the life of me a can't see anywhere where it says it can walk up and down stairs...
trekgeek1
5 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2010
@trekgeek1: What price would you pay to walk again if you'd lost the use of your legs? It may seem like a hefty price tag to some, but its obvious people are willing to pay almost double that to walk again. I did some research on this "electric sports roadster", but for the life of me a can't see anywhere where it says it can walk up and down stairs...


I didn't say it wasn't worth it to them. My claim is that it is overpriced for what it is. It's a glorified segway scooter. Tesla roadster has a top notch motor, cooling system, much bigger battery, power management system, transmission, cpu's, and a whole carbon fiber body. Put those side by side and tell me how those legs cost more. Sure, we can price things according to how much a desperate person will pay, but I prefer reasonable pricing.
trekgeek1
not rated yet Jul 17, 2010
Additionally, the HAL system by Cyberdyne is a full body augmentation for what seems to be, much less money. granted, it operates on different principles, but the tech present as well as it's capability seems to exceed this. I'm not trying to be pessimistic, it just seems that someone already did it better.
BrentT
5 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2010
I asked Robbie (one of the inventors) about this, his reply was that the HAL system requires an able bodied user that provides the balancing and support for the HAL. After all the A stands for augmentation. Rex users legs don't work, so thus can't balance or support the robotics. Also it needs to stand up from seated as the user starts seated in a wheelchair.

The Rex has something like 12CPU's, custom battery, actuators and motors and a full carbon body and cost $NZ10 million to develop. Tesla's have bigger batteries as they are bigger and don't need to fit thru doors. And Segwags can't do stairs as well.
plasticpower
not rated yet Jul 18, 2010
Trust me, this device is MUCH more complicated than the Tesla roadster and most likely wasn't developed by one person in a shed, but by a group of highly intelligent individuals that get paid over $70/hr for what they do. You can say the parts cost this much, but the price of human intelligence is the real cost here.

As for moving without expending any energy, once Brain-Machine interfaces become potent enough, I think that's when you're really gonna see some crazy stuff!
DaveGee
not rated yet Jul 18, 2010
$150,000???

I'd like to see the cost breakdown.


Simple... Search out a video Dean made describing the segway and it's inspiration... A wheelchair dean developed using similar tecnologies. In the video he made a point to mention the ENORMOUS cost expended to do the clinical trials that the FDA and other agencies in the US and abroad required before he could sell a single chair... 10s and maybe 100s of millions... Its been a while but I know it was a boatload of cash and these tests & trials took years to do which adds even more expenses to the already big ticket.
Buyck
not rated yet Jul 22, 2010
Its a good begin! This thing will be further developed and will be lighter, smaller and faster. It takes time to make it perfect!

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