Over 1 million people in the United States are living with paralysis as a result of spinal cord injury. Confined to a wheelchair, these individuals lose mobility and independence, but the Phoenix exoskeleton by the robotics company SuitX hopes to get them back on their feet — literally.
The Phoenix is lightweight, adding just 27 pounds to the user's frame.
The slim profile of the carbon fiber frame allows the user to walk more naturally and even be comfortably seated in a wheelchair between walks. The battery pack, worn on the user's back, lasts up to 8 hours, depending on usage.
The freedom that comes with this particular device is evident even before it's put on. Unlike single-piece exoskeletons, the Phoenix is able to be put on and taken off piece by piece, allowing the user to put it on unassisted. This also allows the suit to be customized for different body types
The Phoenix does require the use of crutches, but their purpose is twofold. On top of the extra stability they provide, they also have the buttons that are used to move the joints at the hip, knee, and ankle. This allows the suit to only move as fast as the user wants. Currently, the unit has reached top speeds of just over 1 mile per hour.
Currently, the exoskeleton is only available for adults, but SuitX is continuing to develop the Phoenix and hopes to offer a model for children in the future.
The idea of using an exoskeleton to give mobility to those with a physical disability isn't a new one. In recent years, scientists have been hard at work coming up with different designs that allow paraplegics to walk independently. There are also other devices in development for the military and first responders to help them carry more weight for longer periods of time.
The problem, however, is that much of what has been coming out is too bulky or too expensive to be a realistic option, with some pricing out at $100,000. The Phoenix is currently priced at $40,000. Still expensive, no doubt, but at the price of a new car, it's a bit more manageable for the average person to afford.
The Phoenix exoskeleton is even versatile enough to help those who don't have use of their legs to play a game of soccer.
Check out this amazing device here:
The Phoenix's biggest rival in the marketplace might be the ReWalk, which received FDA approval in 2014. ReWalk is available for just under $70,000 and also requires the use of crutches for balance. As competition between companies increases, the price is sure to be driven down.
While scientists are working hard on curing spinal cord injuries altogether, exoskeletons are sure to become more common for those with physical disabilities.
What do you think of these devices? Let us know in the comments!