Man Told He'd Never Walk Again Can Do So With First FDA Approved Exoskeleton

October 1, 2016

After injuring his spinal chord in a snowmobile accident in 2001, doctors told Kevin Oldt that he'd never walk again. He was devastated.

But with help from a robotic exoskeleton from Ekso Bionics, Oldt is not only walking again, but regaining strength in his legs.

exoskeleton man walks first time

The Ekso GT, like the handful of other robotic exoskeletons on the market, is essentially a pair of powered robotic legs. It is the first exoskeleton cleared for use by stroke patients in the US. It won FDA approval last April.

"Oldt turns himself into a cyborg by placing his feet on the footplates and securing straps around his legs, hips, and torso," Spectrum reports. "The exoskeleton transfers his weight to the ground, and he uses two arm braces to keep himself from falling over. Walking is a collaborative process: When Oldt shifts his weight to the left, he triggers the robotic leg on the right to take a step forward. Then he shifts his weight to the right for the next step, resulting in a slow but surprisingly natural gait."

In his first year of working with the Esko GT, his physical therapist noticed that the motors were supplying less power to Oldt's right leg as he regained some strength there. Gradually the therapist began dialing down power to that leg, essentially dialing up his muscles. Now Oldt watches the numbers and takes pride in providing a higher percentage of the power.

"It's like a video game," he says. "All I want to do is beat the machine."

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