Exoskeletons From Japan Now Available In The US To Help People Learn How To Walk Again
The HAL exoskeleton of Japanese robotics firm Cyberdyne recently received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to enter the United States, giving patients with spinal cord injuries a futuristic option to learn how to stand and walk again.
Robotic exoskeletons have been depicted in movies as devices that grant the wearer superhuman strength and improved abilities. However, the HAL, or Hybrid Assistive Limb, will look to instead help restore a part of the human that patients have lost.
Cyberdyne HAL Exoskeletons In Jacksonville
Cyberdyne created a joint venture with Brooks Rehabilitation to bring the medical version of the HAL exoskeleton to all parts of the United States. The Japanese company has been working on the HAL exoskeleton for almost a decade, but this is the first time that the technology has entered the country.
The exoskeletons will soon be available across the United States, but for now, they are available at the new Brooks Cybernic Treatment Center in Jacksonville, Florida.
The HAL exoskeletons, which are now being tested at the new center, may be used to help people with spinal cord injuries or disabilities learn how to walk. The robotic suit wraps around the midsection and legs, and is controlled by wearers using their minds.
The system of the exoskeletons is able to pick up bio-electric signals, or the electric currents that are released by cell systems, tissues, and organs. The HAL exoskeletons have sensors attached to the legs that pick up the signals that wearers transmit from their brains to their muscles, triggering the robotic suit to start walking.
Cyberdyne, however, noted that the HAL exoskeleton is not meant to be worn at all times, but rather function just as temporary legs to help patients with their rehabilitation.
"The goal is actually to get rid of the robot," said Brooks Cybernic Treatment Center medical director Dr. Geneva Tonuzi. "This is your intervention and after a certain period of time, you just move on back to regular therapy," she added.
How Much Will The Cyberdyne HAL Exoskeletons Cost?
Cyberdyne's HAL exoskeletons are not something that most people can afford to bring home, and as such will likely have rehabilitation centers as their primary customers. However, Cyberdyne has not yet finalized the price tag of the usage of the exoskeletons in the United States.
"As with any new technology just entering the market, HAL initially is unlikely to be covered by insurance. We are working to determine final pricing and will discuss that with each program participant," said a representative of Brooks Rehabilitation.