This year, California-based Ekso Bionics will begin shipping their eponymous product, a robotic exoskeleton that will enable paraplegics to do the unthinkable: Walk. New York's Mount Sinai Hospital and other rehabilitation clinics in the U.S. and Europe are expected to purchase commercial models once performance and reliability trials are cleared--trials overseen, interestingly enough, by America's Food & Drug Administration.
Ekso Bionics began as Berkeley Bionics in 2005, and early military cooperation helped the firm produce the HULC, a militarized version of the exoskeleton designed to help able-bodied soldiers tirelessly lug heavy payloads through rugged terrain. Lockheed Martin (whose somewhat creepy company motto is "We Never Forget Who We're Working For") licensed the technology in 2009, freeing the company now known as Ekso to begin focusing on its civilian version. The company's work has since earned it a 2012 Edison Award nomination.
It's hard not to be moved by the video of an early product tester, a woman who has not walked since sustaining a spinal injury nearly 20 years ago. For some reason Ekso has rendered the video unembeddable, but it can be freely viewed here.
From an engineering standpoint, Ekso's device is remarkable; as for the design aesthetic, well, the photos here tell the tale. Were I an omnipotent angel investor, the first thing I'd do is pair the company with the superb talents of Scott Summit's Bespoke Innovations.
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