Watch: Iron Man Robotic Exoskeletons Help Paraplegics Walk Again
In the 2008 Iron Man film, Tony Stark builds a robotic exoskeleton for the express purpose of weaponizing it and escaping from forced imprisonment. Today, these exoskeletons have become a reality, but they are surprisingly not being used for the military (yet), and instead being used to help paraplegics walk on their own and achieve self-sufficiency.
Robotics company Ekso Bionics has created a full-body robotic suit (originally intended for the military, incidentally), that were first used to rehabilitate patients who were rendered immobile following traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, or stroke. Now, they are used by clinics all over the country to help many patients with lower extremity paralysis walk with complete autonomy.
As seen in the above video, the patients' legs are strapped into the bionic suit, while their torsos are strapped into a rigid back brace. The patients need not move their legs at all, but simply shift their weight forward in the top half of the body, and sensors in the device trigger the suit to take the step for them.
"What's really exciting about our device, is [patients] can get up and they get usually two or three hundred steps in the very first session," said Ekso CEO Nathan Harding. "And so that really starts to make an impact early on."
The patient in the video, Jason Geisner, was paralyzed six years ago following a devastating motorcycle accident. Now, the bionic suit has helped him regain a sense of normalcy, even allowing him to walk down the aisle unassisted at his wedding.
"All those things that I took for granted prior to my injury became so relevant when I was walking again," said Geisner. "It was something that you immediately realize that you missed when you have it again… When you break out of the new normal back into what was, it just reminds you there's more."