Robotic Exoskeleton to Help People Walk Again

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NASA and IHMC Develop Robotic Exoskeleton for Space and Possible Use on Earth -- WASHINGTON -- A new robotic space technology spinoff derived from NASA's Robonaut 2 project someday may help astronauts stay healthier in space and aid paraplegics in walking here on Earth. Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot in space, currently is working with astronauts aboard the International Space Station. NASA and The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) of Pensacola, Fla., with the help of engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston, have jointly developed a robotic exoskeleton called X1. The 57-pound device is a robot that a human could wear over his or her body either to assist or inhibit movement in leg joints. In the inhibit mode, the robotic device would be used as an in-space exercise machine to supply resistance against leg movement. The same technology could be used in reverse on the ground, potentially helping some individuals walk for the first time. "Robotics is playing a key role aboard the International Space Station and will be critical in our future human exploration of deep space," said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's Space Technology Program."What's extraordinary about space technology and our work with projects like Robonaut are the unexpected possibilities space tech spinoffs may have right here on Earth. It's exciting to see a NASA-developed technology might one day help people with serious ambulatory needs to begin to walk again, or even walk for the first time. That's the sort of return on investment NASA is proud to give back to America and the world." Worn over the legs with a harness that reaches up the back and around the shoulders, X1 has 10 degrees of freedom, or joints -- four motorized joints at the hips and the knees, and six passive joints that allow for sidestepping, turning and pointing, and flexing a foot. There also are multiple adjustment points, allowing the X1 to be used in many different ways. Learn more at http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/oct/HQ_12-329_Robonaut_Exoskeleton.html

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