The Food and Drug Administration has approved a wearable robot exoskeleton for home use by patients who are currently confined to wheelchairs, according to ABC News.
“This revolutionary product will have an immediate, life-changing impact on individuals with spinal cord injuries,” said Larry Jasinski, CEO of ReWalk Robotics, the company that makes the machines. “This is truly the beginning of ‘ReWalking’ as a daily reality in the U.S.”
Prior to FDA approval, the devices have only been available for use in rehabilitation settings. And while they are tremendously promising, there are still some limitations that may keep them from immediate widespread use.
The devices made by ReWalk and rival company Esko use a computer to mimic the side-to-side sway of a normal walking gait. However, users can’t walk quickly or run, and battery life is still an issue. Current models can only run for two to three hours before needing to be recharged.
Kozlowski told ABC that even short walks, however, can benefit paralyzed patients. The exercise will help them get more air into their lungs, improve circulation, ease chronic pain and improve digestive functioning, he said.
Developers are still trying to accustom the robots to varying types of terrain. It takes a certain amount of skill, said Kozlowski, to maneuver up or down stairs.
“It’s not pretty,” he said, “but it works.”