Bionic legs are a new top-secret invention that is helping a paralyzed man walk again. The demonstrated was unveiled in New Zealand, who can now stand up and walk across the room to shake hands with Prime Minister John Key. This new invention is being called “Rex”, which is short for “robotic exoskeleton.” The battery-powered robotic legs strap on around the legs and waist of the user to support their weight.
Using a joystick and a small keypad, Allen demonstrated how to operate the legs to stand, walk, and even go up and down steps. The Rex has to be custom fitted to each user, it took about three days for Allen to get the hang of it. However, now he is capable of strapping the device on himself, without any assistance.
The inventors of Rex are Richard Little and Robert Irving. They are two childhood friends originally from Scotland. Seven years ago after Irving was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the duo came up with the idea. Over the next few years, they refined Rex into a 38kg (84lb) device. All their work was top secret; even Allen, who agreed to be the Rex test pilot, kept his family in the dark about the project until the launch.
“It was all top secret and what we didn’t know, we didn’t need to know anyway. But seeing him here today, it’s just blown us away. It’s brought tears to our eyes really,” Allen’s father said in a statement. Allen has been in a wheelchair since injuring his spinal cord in a motorcycle accident five year ago. When he heard what Little and Irving were planning, he jumped on board. “They brought me in and I said ‘I want to be part of that.’ I couldn’t walk away — or roll away — from that,” he stated.
The investors in the venture capital company put up the $7.5 million which was needed to create the prototypes. The device is expected to be on the market worldwide by mid-2011. The cost of the custom made device will cost around $150,000 each. However, it is priceless for people who never thought they would walk again.