Real Life Ironman Suit
It may not fly, grant the wearer super strength, or shoot rays from the palm of its gauntlets, but the Ekso suit allows Army veteran Gary Linkfoot to walk again after being confined to a wheelchair since 2008, which is a feat far more heroic. The full-body exoskeleton that has enabled the paraplegic Linkfoot to stand up on his own two feet is the brainchild of Ekso Bionics, a company operating out of California. The wearable robotic device was funded originally by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the technology is being improved upon by the Georgia Tech Research Institute. A robot couldn’t ask for a better family tree.
Though currently expensive – approximately $100,000-, co-founder of Ekso Bionics Russ Angold foresees a near future where the suit will be as available and accessible as cell phones, another technology that was very exclusive at first, only to become widely spread all over the world. The fact alone that this technology actually exists is encouraging for the 6 million Americans who suffer of a degree of paralysis, as recounted by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in 2009. To put it in perspective, when paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve died in 2004, the concept of a robotic exoskeleton belonged exclusively to the pages of the comic books whence his most famous character came.
However, if Jules Verne and H.G. Wells taught us anything, is that the crossover from science fiction to reality is not only possible, but also necessary. Less than a decade after Reeve’s death, the Ekso Suit has a physical existence outside of the minds that conceived it. Linkfoot’s input will be instrumental in enhancing and ultimately disseminating this life-altering technology, and the erstwhile special ops officer, who returned to service only three months after the accident that paralyzed him, is more than up to the task. People like him and endurance athlete Mark Pollack –who are among the only five persons who own an Ekso Suit- show that what makes a real ironman is what’s inside the armor.
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