When Israeli entrepreneur Amit Goffer was paralyzed in a car crash in 1997, he went on a quest to help other victims walk again.
He started wondering why the wheelchair is the only way for the paralyzed to get around, short of being carried.
So he invented an alternative: robotic “pants” that use sensors and motors to allow paralyzed patients to stand, walk and even climb stairs. He founded a company, Argo Medical Technologies Ltd., to commercialize it.
After several years of clinical trials in Israel and the United States, units will go on sale in January to rehabilitation centers around the world.
Argo joins several companies that have developed robotics and exoskeletons in medicine.
Called “ReWalk,” the latest device can help paraplegics to stand and walk - using crutches for stability - when they lean forward and move their upper body in different ways.
The 35-pound (16-kilogram) device, worn outside of clothing, consists of leg braces outfitted with motion sensors and motorized joints that respond to subtle changes in upper-body movement and shifts in balance. A harness around the patient’s waist and shoulders keeps the suit in place, and a backpack holds the computer and rechargeable 3 1/2-hour battery.
When operated, it makes clanging robotic sounds, like the hero of the 1980s cult movie “Robocop.”