Ekso-skeleton walk

Step into a suit, strap in, stand up, and walk. That’s exactly what I did last week for the first time. I had heard a lot about the exoskeleton made by Ekso Bionics, especially from a number of other people with Spinal Cord Injuries, and I had been interested in trying it out for myself. Finally, after many weeks, it was time for me to try one of the most novel and innovative forms of treatment for SCI.

Like so many cutting edge technology companies, and fortunately for me, Ekso Bionics is based in the Bay Area, just 15 minutes from my home, in a spacious, futuristic, movie-set-like warehouse where they do everything from design to marketing to engineering to manufacture of this incredible product. Upon entering Ekso, I had the immediate sense of being surrounded by scientific intelligence, and the feeling that big things were happening here. You’re welcome to check out their website to learn specifics but the very brief overview of Ekso is that they’re basically split into developing two types of Ekso Bionic Suits: one for rehabilitating people with SCI and other disabilities and the other for military purposes (an able-bodied person being able to wear the suit and carry hundreds of pounds of weight on their body). Both purposes serve to advance their mission of developing “the most forward-thinking and innovative solutions for people looking to augment human mobility and capability.”

After conducting an evaluation of my physical condition, including precise measurements of my legs, hips and feet, it was time to try it out. It only took a few seconds to strap me in before I was standing upright in the most effortless way I had experienced since my accident. Usually, when I do standing or walking exercises, I have to support much of my weight on my arms and shoulders but with Ekso, this wasn’t the case. I felt upright and fully supported, yet agile and light.

So how does it work??? There are no electrodes or implants or anything that complicated. Basically, to take a step, I put my weight into one leg and lean in that direction and once I pass that “sweet spot” where my balance has shifted but I’m not falling or swaying, the opposite leg will take a step. The suit has sensors in my feet recognizing how much weight is in each foot, so to step again, I lean on the opposite leg and again, as soon as I pass that threshold where enough weight is off the back leg, it takes a step. I started with a walker in front of me to support me but quickly moved on to using crutches which was a bit more tricky at first but easier once I got the hang of it. It didn’t take long to figure it out, so much so that after a few laps, I asked the guys when I could start sprinting with the suit.  🙂

After more than an hour of standing and over twenty minutes of walking, I barely felt fatigued. Post Ekso statsWhile the process of walking feels a bit unnatural (you really have to lean pretty far in one direction to make the opposite leg to take a step), the ease and smoothness of walking with Ekso is an unmatched feeling. Thankfully, as an Ekso test-pilot, I will be able to use the suit again and help them as they continue to develop and improve their product.

Much like another incredible piece of equipment that I used recently (the lokomat), Ekso is a marvel of human engineering, designed so precisely and carefully that it will undoubtedly be a pioneer in the field of SCI rehab. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Ekso community and will post and update my progress as I continue to work with them and walk in the suit.

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59 thoughts on “Ekso-skeleton walk

  1. Yessss!! Oh brother, it’s godd to se you upright and moving with your own will (and machine). How does your body feel? Sending lots of good signals through your system, man!

    1. Thanks bro. It felt great for sure but I consider it only a warm up for doing that without all of that machinery. Technology is great and all but human healing is even better! -AB

  2. This is so exciting, Arash!! We are so fortunate to live in the Bay Area, the mecca for advanced technology!

  3. I absolutely KNEW you’d walk again! With or without help, you are getting there faster than anticipated! I LOVE that you’re beating all the odds buddy! You’re a ROCK STAR!!

  4. Superb. These guys were across the street from our old location on 9th and Parker. Great that you can benefit from their advances. UC Engineering to the fore again.

  5. Wow – amazing Arash! What technology can do…and I can’t even imagine how great it must have felt for you to be walking using this technology. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Awesome! I bet it felt great to be upright and moving! Let’s hope your body can coordinate this back on it’s own soon! Fell better! and keep on moving! Doing great!

  7. The smile on your face is what catches my eye – speaks a thousand words. Your description of walking by leaning is a gift too, de-constructing something we can easily take for granted. Today, I will be more aware of the motions we go through and the way they make me feel x

  8. Fantastic!! I agree with Julia’s comment above, I was torn between watching you smile and watching you walk and move.

    I hope for these brilliant people is continued success and access to many as soon as possible. What hope! And continued healing to you!!!

  9. Great to see you upright and walking. This technology looks amazing.

  10. I shed a tear watching those videos. That’s just wonderful, not only for the muscle memory, but it has to feel good to your soul! I know it made my soul feel good, does that count?!? I’m glad that Ekso is so close and that you will be able to utilize them more than just once. Sending good energy your way Arash!

  11. Way to go! I’m so happy for you getting such wonderful opportunities! Keep up your amazing progress.

  12. That is seriously awesome! Have you ever read anything about “the singularity” (Ray Kurzweil is the most influential proponent) when on this exponential trajectory of technological evolution humans and technology will merge? It’s fascinating stuff. You’re experiencing a glimpse into that future!

  13. This is awesome! Have you ever heard or read about “the singularity” (Ray Kurzweil is the biggest proponent) which is the term for when the current exponential trajectory of technological evolution will cause humans and technology to merge? Fascinating stuff… and you’re experiencing a glimpse of this future now!

  14. Absolutely astounding! And, its such a great opportunity for you to step up your own rehab plan while also working to improve a product to help so many other people.

  15. Marilyn: Great talking to you yesterday. We’re having a much-needed down day here today; getting out for lunch and scoping out our “new neighborhood”.

    I wanted to forward this on to you fyi. I’m so excited for Arash (guy I met at SCI Fit). He’s truly an amazing fellow, who I know possesses every potential for squeezing lemonade (with a twist!) out of a bushel of lemons. I think he’s going to end up being a real hero and inspiration in the SCI community; he reminds me so much of you!

    Cheers.

    Date: Tue, 21 May 2013 02:22:41 +0000 To: thallerjrpeagreen@msn.com

  16. Arash: So great to see this, and to see you walking around as an “Ekso test pilot”; I have no doubt that you’ll be “flying” very soon. How exciting…

    I made the trip to Atlanta (got here Mon. night), and had a good day of assessment yesterday. The real work begins Friday with additional evaluation and start of actual therapy in the Beyond Therapy program. So far, all my initial impressions of this place and the people is very positive. Will keep you posted and let you know how it goes; might be something you will want to consider for yourself.

    Cheers. -Tom

    Date: Tue, 21 May 2013 02:22:41 +0000 To: thallerjrpeagreen@msn.com

    1. Hi Tom. Yes please do keep me posted. I hope you’re having a great time there and learning a lot. Looking forward to hearing about your experience whenever you’re back. Best to you -AB

  17. Arash – this is so exciting! Wow – you are going to be in their pilot program?? They could not have chosen a better candidate. I am very happy to learn about your great experience in the eskoskeleton. It looks pretty sensational… you seem to have great control in your gait (even though mentioned it was a little awkward in some ways – could not see that)… And the sensation for you must have been amazing — not putting as much stress on the upper body. Keep us posted on this new phase of your recovery strategy. As we always say, you are developing those pathways with each and every thing you do that replicates where you want to be functioning. This is now a fantastic new addition to your arsenal! Yay — Blessings and Love to you dear friend, Robyn

    1. Thanks Robyn. You’re right and indeed everything I do is a piece in the puzzle to get me back to where I want to be. I was a bit reluctant to use the Ekso at first because I want to walk on my own, not with the help of anything. But I realized that this is just a tool to get me back there and I should embrace it. So here I am using it more and continuing with their program. The sensation truly is amazing I must say and it’s quite addictive too. Can’t wait to go back. Much love to you Robyn -AB

  18. Sorry it’s taken me so long to comment on this, friend! This is seriously cool. Using the walker you looked really natural! You’re quite lucky to live in the Bay with access to so much cool technology nearby. Sending you my warmest wishes of encouragement. You’ve got this.

    1. I appreciate it Jess. I think it’s cool too and I do feel so fortunate for living so close to this technology. Thanks for your support as always. Hope you’re well -AB

  19. Hey mate, just watched the latest edit of the film. We’re making you look good! All the best, Harri

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