I usually showcase herky-jerky deathbots destined to strangle us all. But here’s a breed of robot that’s actually helpful:
When Michael Gore stands, it’s a triumph of science and engineering. Eleven years ago, Gore was paralyzed from the waist down in a workplace accident, yet he rises from his wheelchair to his full 6-foot-2-inches and walks across the room with help from a lightweight wearable robot.
The technology has many nicknames. Besides “wearable robot,” the inventions also are called “electronic legs” or “powered exoskeletons.” This version, called Indego, is among several competing products being used and tested in U.S. rehab hospitals that hold promise not only for people such as Gore with spinal injuries, but also those recovering from strokes or afflicted with multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.
Still at least a year away from the market, the 27-pound Indego is the lightest of the powered exoskeletons. It snaps together from pieces that fit into a backpack. The goal is for the user to be able to carry it on a wheelchair, put it together, strap it on and walk independently. None of the products, including the Indego, are yet approved by federal regulators for personal use, meaning they must be used under the supervision of a physical therapist.
Yes, I know research using herky-jerky robots help to develop this technology. I’ll have to learn to live with this conundrum.