X

eLegs let paraplegics walk again (photos)

Berkeley Bionics' eLegs robotic exoskeleton is giving paraplegics hope for new freedoms.

James Martin
James Martin is the Managing Editor of Photography at CNET. His photos capture technology's impact on society - from the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, to the European refugee crisis and Rwanda's efforts to improve health care. From the technology pioneers of Google and Facebook, photographing Apple's Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai, to the most groundbreaking launches at Apple and NASA, his is a dream job for any documentary photography and journalist with a love for technology. Exhibited widely, syndicated and reprinted thousands of times over the years, James follows the people and places behind the technology changing our world, bringing their stories and ideas to life.
James Martin
elegs-2_1.jpg
1 of 9 James Martin/CNET

eLegs

Berkeley Bionics today unveiled eLegs, a 45-pound bionic exoskeleton that's enabling paraplegics to get out of their wheelchairs to stand and walk.
elegs-5_1.jpg
2 of 9 James Martin/CNET

Amanda Boxtel

eLegs tester Amanda Boxtel hadn't walked since becoming paralyzed from the waist down during a skiing accident in Snowmass, Colo., in 1992.

Living life in a wheelchair, she says, means always looking up at people. Taking steps in the eLegs exoskeleton, she says, means she can look people straight in the eye. She can get real hugs, and maybe even go for hikes outdoors, one of her favorite activities.

elegs-1.jpg
3 of 9 James Martin/CNET

Walking across stage

Berkeley Bionics CEO Eythor Bender said the company wanted to create a low-profile, lightweight aid that moves quietly and with a natural gait and speed.

The eLegs robotic frame is controlled through standard crutches outfitted with sensors and a gesture-based human-machine interface. Move the right crutch forward, and the left leg takes a step, propelling the patient forward in smooth, natural-stepping motions.
elegs-10_1.jpg
4 of 9 James Martin/CNET

eLegs

eLegs grew out of work by Berkeley Bionics and Lockheed Martin to develop a bionic exoskeleton called the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC). Currently in production, HULC was developed for the military and designed to allow soldiers to safely carry up to 200 pounds over rough terrain.
elegs-11_1.jpg
5 of 9 James Martin/CNET

Introduced into rehabilitation clinics

The eLegs system will first be introduced into rehabilitation clinics in the United States, with units going on sale in late 2011.

Berkeley Bionics CEO Eythor Bender said the company is hoping to make the eLegs system available for around $50,000, about half the cost of current high-end wheelchairs.

elegs-3_1.jpg
6 of 9 James Martin/CNET

Regaining the movements of walking

Parapalegics demonstrating the use of eLegs at a press conference in San Francisco said they never thought they would experience walking movements again.

Boxtel said it feels incredible to once again walk with a bent knee, take a step from heel to toe, and place a foot flat on the ground.

elegs-4_1.jpg
7 of 9 James Martin/CNET

The base of eLegs

CEO Bender said that for almost 500 years, the standard wheelchair has been the only option for paralyzed patients, and that eLegs is an alternative that will enhance independence and freedom of movement.
elegs-7_1.jpg
8 of 9 James Martin/CNET

Lithium cobalt batteries

The lithium cobalt batteries fully charge overnight, and stay charged for more than six hours.
elegs-8_1.jpg
9 of 9 James Martin/CNET

Upper body strength needed

Designed to replace more bulky and expensive assisted walking devices currently in use in rehabilitation centers, users can put eLegs on over their clothes and shoes in a matter of minutes, and be walking independently with just a few hours of practice.

Patients need to be able to self-transfer from a wheelchair. They then put the eLegs system on with just a few velcro straps and the backpack shoulder harness.

More Galleries

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera
A houseplant

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera

20 Photos
Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra
magic-v2-2024-foldable-1383

Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

10 Photos
The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum
Samsung Galaxy S24

The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum

23 Photos
Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design
The Galaxy S24 Ultra in multiple colors

Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design

23 Photos
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites
img-0368.jpg

I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

34 Photos
Do You Know About These 17 Hidden iOS 17 Features?
Invitation for the Apple September iPhone 15 event

Do You Know About These 17 Hidden iOS 17 Features?

18 Photos
AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?
img-1599-2.jpg

AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

17 Photos