Robotic Exoskeleton Helps Paralyzed People Walk Again

The SuitX Phoenix is an exoskeleton designed to people with mobility disorders be upright and mobile, with less weight and cost than its current competitors.  Created by Berkeley engineering professor Homayoon Kazerooni, this suit is intended to give users a better quality of life.

The suit is modular and adjustable, meaning that the user can put on and remove each piece on their own.  There are buttons on a pair of integrated crutches which control movement and are meant to be easy to use whether standing up, sitting down, or walking.  It is even comfortable to wear while seated in a wheelchair.

It weighs in at 27 lbs (12.25 kg), half that of its rivals, thanks in part to a slimmed-down structure meant to better mimic humans.  Instead of having a motor at each joint, the Phoenix has only two motors placed at the hips.  The actuators at the knees have been replaced with hinges to keep the legs straight while bearing weight and to allow them to swing when taking a step. 

The suit is powered by a battery kept in a small backpack.  On a single charge, the Phoenix can walk for about 4 continuous hours or 8 hours of intermittent use.

With a speed of 1.1 mph (1.8 kph) and an inability to navigate power-intensive tasks such as climbing a staircase, the Phoenix is not intended to replace a wheelchair.  Rather, it is intended to provide greater freedom of movement and help prevent health issues brought on by constantly laying or sitting down.  With a price tag of $40,000, the Phoenix aims to be a more affordable option for individuals with mobility disorders.

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AJ has been writing ever since he could first hold a pencil, and hasn't really slowed down since. Previously working as an editor and ghostwriter (he still does those things, actually), these days he's putting his keyboard to good use at multiple tech websites.