Initially, the device will be offered to rehabilitation centers for use under medical supervision, and can be adjusted to fit most people between 5’2 and 6’4” and weighing 220 lbs or less, in a matter of minutes. Users must be able to self-transfer from their wheelchair. Simple Velcro straps, backpack-style clips, and shoulder straps secure eLEGS to the user, over their clothing and shoes, and with a little practice, users can put eLEGS on and take it off in a minute or two.
eLEGS provides unprecedented knee flexion, which translates into the most natural human gait available in any exoskeleton today, making it better equipped to handle mixed terrains. It is also relatively quiet while in operation. Walking speeds depend on each patient’s aptitude and condition, but speeds in excess of 2MPH can be attained, and speeds can be varied. The device is battery-powered and employs a gesture-based human-machine interface which — utilizing sensors — observes the gestures the user makes to determine their intentions and then acts accordingly. A real-time computer draws on sensors and input devices to orchestrate every aspect of a single stride.
Clinical trials will start early next year (2011) at selected clinics in the United States. Physical therapists will need to be trained as eLEGS-certified prior to release.
In his 1968 novel A Specter is Haunting Texas, science fiction writer Fritz Leiber describes specialized exoskeletons used to help human beings who grew up under microgravity conditions survive on the Earth's surface:
This truly magnificient, romantically handsome, rather lean man was standing on two corrugated-soled titanium footplates. From the outer edge of each rose a narrow titanium T-beam that followed the line of his leg, with a joint (locked now) at the knee, up to another joint with a titanium pelvic girdle and shallow belly support. From the back of this girdle a T-spine rose to support a shoulder yoke and rib cage, all of the same metal. The rib cage was artistically slotted to save weight, so that curving strips followed the line of each of his very prominent ribs.
...The motors were controlled by myoelectric impulses from his ghost muscles transmitted by sensitive pickups buried in the foam-padded bands.
(Read more about the titanium exoskeleton)