On June 12th 2014, a paraplegic gave the first kick in the World Cup in Brazil using an Iron Man style bodysuit controlled by his brain. ( video )
For people not familiar with paralysis caused by spinal cord injury, this robotic suit also called an ‘exoskeleton’. It may look very useful, but unfortunately that is not the case. I have nothing against robotics as they can be a useful complementary approach, but the attention and funding they get seems to be exaggerated when considering its potential results especially when compared to the potential of regenerative therapies. These devices don’t make us walk, they just move our legs! At the same time they don’t do anything to recover important functions such as breathing, hand functions, sensation, bowel, bladder and sexual functions etc…
What exoskeletons actually do is divert attention and money away from what could really give us back what we need to live an independent life: medical research directed to find a cure for chronic spinal cord injury.
Like me, many people living with paralysis are very worried by the fact that there seems to be growing support to develop exoskeletons as a solution for paralysis and the main argument in support of that is that a real cure is a long way off.
This concern grows when we hear that the Brazilian government gave $14 million in the last two years to support this project. http://www.iflscience.com/technology/paraplegic-ironman-suit-will-take-first-kick-2014-world-cup
I wonder: what progress toward a cure could have happened if in the past two years $14 million had been given to a research group working to find a cure for chronic spinal cord injury?
Unfortunately we will never know that, but we know for sure that exoskeletons no matter how much they will be improved will keep us paralyzed. This is why I would far rather see resources devoted to a regenerative intervention that would address the full breadth of the ravages of paralysis than the prospect that maybe one day, 5 or 10 years from now, someone can strap a shower cap full of electrodes to my head so that I can “walk” myself into a wall because of a technical problem that sooner or later any device will have.
I hope that in the coming years researchers working to find a cure will have at least the same level of funding as the ones working on exoskeletons; it would be logical to put much more money toward a cure since a cure has much better outcome than the best possible exoskeleton. Will logic prevail?
It’s time people wake up and support a cure not robots!
Cure Girl Loredana
Have to say that I disagree. As someone who builds exoskeletons I believe that we should give the users the free choice and certainly the 50 or so people who I have seen walking again using an exoskeleton have generally reported significant improvements in the reduction of bowel, bladder and skin complications. Surely the two things are not exclusive, lets find a cure for SCI and further robotics as a tool for people with a mobility impairment or other disability
I know many people who have tried the ReWalk or the Ekso Bionix one and no one is happy with it. How many ReWalk or Ekso Bionics have been sold so far?
Very few no matter how hard they have been pushing the product.
Because a robotic suit does not fill the needs of people with spinal cord injury. I am paraplecgic since 2004, I have marketing education (some experience too) in understanding cosumer needs. I understand how MKT people of companies selling robotic suit did not understand correctly the needs of SCI peopple because a person with SCI is a very complex consumer. Problem is what SCI people tell you is just in a small part true. Problem is understanding which part is true and what they don’t tell you. Also very often they have a very distroted perception of reality they live due to subcocious coping mechanisms.
Going back to what is written in this blog I am ok with exoskeleton as long as just private funding go to it. If you want to waste your money you are free to do so, but if public money from an SCI research budget such as this case:
go to study exoskeleton I have a big problem with that because I want a cure not a robot suit.
Robots have many useful application, but not for spinal cord injury. You will go bankrupt if you think you’ll make money with a robot for people lving with SCI.
Clunky and almost useless were first cars and airplanes.
With development of new materials Exoskeleton will become lighter
and more useful to the point when they will replace wheelchair as a chronic assistve mobility device.
This is Sci-Fi, of course, as Intercontinental jets were Sci-Fi for brothers Wright opponents of their time.
Finding different modes of (even partial) Cure within “Time-lapse” will inevitably go in parallel with Exoskeleton development and if something (X prize !) speed up both processes, (finding Cure FIRST – preferably), we will be walking again… with little help of exoskeletons…
2 years ago I post this on my Blog related to new materials and exoskeleton future development.
sorry this suppose to be better Link:
it will take more time for exoskeletons to do all that than to figure out how to fix SCI. Plus its a waste of time since even with all mentioned functions it won’t be better than your natural self.
If you want to invest your monay in exoskeletons you are free to do so, but I am sure you will waste your money. Show me a marketing analisys of the potential market of exoskeleton in the paralized community if you can