Researchers at startup SuitX have developed a lightweight exoskeleton called Phoenix, which will help people with mobility issues to walk again.
Paraplegics can use the 27 pounds exoskeleton for up to four hours of continuous movement.
"The Phoenix exoskeleton is the world's lightest and most advanced exoskeleton designed to help people with mobility disorders to be upright and mobile. In the clinic, at home, and in the workplace Phoenix has successfully enabled many individuals to stand up, walk about, and speak to peers eye-to-eye," says SuitX.
Phoenix users will be able to reach walking speed of up to 1.1 miles per hour, which is slower than moving in a wheelchair.
"My idea and philosophy is less is more," says Homayoon Kazerooni, the founder of SuitX. "We want to give a minimal amount to the user to be independent. We're not saying this is a complete [mobility] machine, but if we come up with something that's robust and simple – walks, stops, sits, and stands – that's hugely enabling!"
In 2005, Steven Sanchez was paralyzed from waist down. For 11 years no surgery could help him stand again. However, with the Phoenix, he can walk again.
Sanchez says that getting around in a wheelchair was fine with him. However, he suffers from pressure sores from sitting on a chair or lying down all day.
"If I could stand up every half hour for 5-10 minutes, be able to walk around in a circle, get some sort of blood flow, that's huge for my body," says Sanchez. "That's hours more I could theoretically sit."
Phoenix developers say that the exoskeleton has been made not to defeat obstacles, but to allow paraplegic people to sit, stand or move when they want, although at a slow pace.
Phoenix will cost $40,000, which is cheaper in comparison to other similar products that have a price tag of around $70,000. Kazerooni says that even though the price of Phoenix is comparatively less expensive, it might still be used mainly by rehab clinics and hospitals.
Similar products available in the market are designed for people with mobility problems on both legs. However, developers have designed Phoenix in a way so that it can be arranged to suit a wide array of disabilities and people.
Users can also fine tune the exoskeleton with an Android app, so that the walking motion feels comfortable and natural.
The company is accepting preorders for the Phoenix and the shipment is expected to start in March this year.
Check out a video of Phoenix in action.