Wondering where you've heard of Berkeley Bionics before? These are the same whiz-kids who produced the HULC exoskeleton in mid-2008, and now they're back with a far more ambitious effort. Announced just moments ago in San Francisco, the eLEGS exoskeleton is a bionic device engineered to help paraplegics stand up and walk on their own. It's hailed as a "wearable, artificially intelligent, bionic device," and it's expected to help out within the hospital, at home and elsewhere in this wild, wild place we call Earth. Initially, the device will be offered to rehabilitation centers for use under medical supervision, and can be adjusted to fit most people between 5'2" and 6'4" (and weighing 220 pounds or less) in a matter of minutes. We're told that the device provides "unprecedented knee flexion," and it's also fairly quiet in operation; under ideal circumstances, speeds of up to 2MPH can be attained, and it employs a gesture-based human-machine interface that relies on legions of sensors to determine a user's intentions and act accordingly. Clinical trials are
going on as we speak about to begin, and there's a limited release planned for the second half of 2011. We're still waiting to hear back on a price, so keep it locked for more as we get it live from the event.
Update: We just got to see the eLEGS walk across stage, and you'll find a gallery full of close-up pics immediately below. We also spoke to Berkeley Bionics CEO Eythor Bender, who detailed the system a bit more -- it's presently made of steel and carbon fiber with lithium-ion battery packs, weighs 45 pounds, and has enough juice to run for six hours of continuous walking. While he wouldn't give us an exact price, he said they're shooting for $100,000, and will be "very competitive" with other devices on the market. Following clinical trials, the exoskeleton will be available to select medical centers in July or August, though Bender also said the company's also working on a streamlined commercial version for all-day use, tentatively slated for 2013.