Every year the field of medical science closes the gap between humans and robots just a tiny step more in the name of providing patients with better lives. The miracles of science have now provided one paralyzed man a news lease on life, and may even save the lives of others as well. With bionic technology the patient is not only enjoying a new set of bionic legs, but a whole new way of living.
Five years ago New Zealander Hayden Allen found himself wondering if he would ever walk again as doctors informed him that the motorcycle accident he had just been involved in had severed his spinal cord. Doctors were certain he wouldn’t, but Hayden knew there were always ways of proving even doctors wrong. And it was with the help of a team of researchers that he discovered his days of walking were far from over.
The new device will allow Hayden to not only walk, but to sit down and even use stairs , a significant advantage over the wheelchair Hayden had become used to. The biotech company developing the legs calls it simply ‘Rex,’ which is Latin for King but also stands for Robotic EXoskeleton. And there’s no doubt with his new lease on life Hayden Allen is feeling as fortunate as a King as he is able to see his legs walking for the first time in years.
The device does not require any special neural interface to work. There was no surgery involved, and Allen can just strap himself in and walk to his heart’s content even if his spinal column is not functioning. With sufficient practice Hayden Allen’s new pair of bionic legs will seem as though they were a natural extension of his own body.
The legs are controlled by a remote control that juts out from the hip. Hayden inputs what he wants them to do and they perform the duties themselves. As Hayden selects an action (such as sitting) the legs begin that process while servos perform the actual work. The legs were what allowed Hayden to walk on stage during a meeting with the Prime Minister John Key and shake his hand.
The legs provide a medical benefit as well as a practical one. With movement in the legs circulation will be helped unlike when Hayden was simply sitting in a wheelchair, making blood clots less of a threat to his wellbeing than they once were. Additionally, he has had greater success with work now than before, and can perform much more practical duties as a mechanic than he once was able to do. Even simple tasks, such as locking the doors of his house are more easily performed than they once were.
And who knows what the future of bionics may bring. With technology that reads brainwaves and allows humans to control objects simply by thinking about them, perhaps a more futuristic and dexterous system will be in the works in the future, allowing those suffering from life changing paralysis an opportunity to walk hands free and walk or even run. The future indeed looks bright for medical technology in this field.