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Robotic exoskeleton helps paralyzed student walk

Sharon Gaudin | May 16, 2011
UC Berkeley graduating senior crosses stage with robotic help to receive diploma

Also in 2008, an international group of scientists successfully used a monkey's brain activity to control a humanoid robot. Miguel Nicolelis, a professor of neurobiology at Duke University and lead researcher on the project, said at the time that the research may only be a several years away from helping paralyzed people walk again by enabling them to use their thoughts to control exoskeletons attached to their bodies.

With UC Berkeley's recent work on exoskeletons, researchers said robotic exoskeletons generally share similar elements: mechanical braces that can be strapped onto the user's legs and body, motorized joints controlled by actuators, electronic sensors, a computer processor that orchestrates the movements and a battery power source.

"If you cut down on the number of motors, you can cut down on the number of sensors needed, which in turn simplifies the device and leads to lower cost, but this also makes the exoskeleton motion control more complicated," Jason Reid, a researcher on the exoskeleton team, said in a written statement. "Sophisticated motion control adds little, if anything, to the cost of production, but it requires a great deal of research and creativity at the design stage. That is what we are doing."

 

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