New exoskeleton helps restore mobility to people with paralysis

An exoskeleton developed by University of California, Berkeley’s Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory helps people with limited mobility walk again.

According to a press release, Homayoon Kazerooni, PhD, professor of Mechanical Engineering at University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), has spent more than 10 years working with graduate students to create robotic exoskeletons. Kazerooni recently presented the Phoenix by SuitX, a company Kazerooni created to produce the developments from the robotics lab. The lightweight exoskeleton has two motors at the hips and electrically controlled tension settings that tighten when the wearer is standing and swing freely when the wearer is walking. Wearers can control leg movement and speed, with the ability to walk up to 1.1 miles per hour, using buttons integrated into a pair of crutches. The battery lasts up to 8 hours, and the battery pack worn in a backpack.

Steven Sanchez, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a BMX accident, wears the Phoenix exoskeleton.



The Phoenix can be adjusted to fit different weights, heights and leg sizes. It costs $40,000, about half the cost of other exoskeletons, according to the release.

“We cannot really fix their disease,” Kazerooni said in the release. “We cannot fix their injury. But what it would do, is postpone the secondary injuries due to sitting. It gives a better quality of life.”

In 2000, Kazerooni and the robotics team created the Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton, which helps people carry heavy loads. The project was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Kazerooni then changed his focus to developing devices to restore mobility for people who are paraplegic. In 2011, the team created an exoskeleton for Berkeley senior Austin Whitney, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a 2007 car accident.



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