A wearable robot helps patients resume their lives following a stroke or disability

Patients who have suffered a stroke, or live with weakness in their lower body, now have a new way to stand up and take a stroll around their room, almost naturally.

Ekso, a wearable bionic suit, allows users to shift their weight, activating sensors in the device, which in turn initiates steps. Battery-powered motors drive the legs, working instead of damaged neuromuscular functions. The technology enables people with almost complete paralysis and minimal forearm strength to stand and walk. It also helps them re-learn normal step patterns and weight shifts.

The way it works starts with a physical therapist actuating steps by pushing a button. This enables the user to progress from a sitting to a standing position, before walking with crutches in the first session. After this, the users can take control by starting the steps themselves, using the buttons on the crutches or walker. Finally, they can move forward by shifting their hips and their weight. Ekso is capable of identifying whether a user is in the correct position and steps.

Essentially, the Ekso GT robotic exoskeleton is a breakthrough in patient rehabilitation, over ground gait training, and upright, weight bearing exercise, albeit under the watchful eye of a physical therapist. It is geared at busy therapists who treat a number of patients per day. The exoskeleton is designed as a suit that can be adjusted to patient’s different sizes in as fast as five minutes.

The device was made for patients with carrying degrees of paralysis or hemiparesis due to neurological conditions such as stroke, spinal cord injury or disease, traumatic brain injury and others. What’s unique about the technology is its ability to accommodate an unprecedented range of patients with different motor abilities. Most patients who had passed physical examination were able to walk in their first session.