The Ekso is currently used in hospitals and physical therapy centers. Right now it offers more natural movement to people who might need help rebuilding muscles after an injury, or relearning to walk after a stroke. It can't walk backwards or climb stairs, though.
That will change in future iterations. Within two years, said Mike Magill, sales and marketing consultant to Ekso, there will be a model for the home - slimmer, lighter, and able to move in all the ways that humans ordinarily do. "It should be as easy as putting on a pair of jeans," he said.
NEWS: 'Iron Man' Type Exoskeleton Aids Recovery
For a person to walk, the Ekso has to look at where their weight is, as well as check how the leg is bent and the location of the other leg. If certain conditions are satisfied, it takes the next step. Dwyer said a person can walk by just shifting her weight. At present the exoskeleton needs to be used with crutches, but as the system is refined, they will become unnecessary, he added.
One thing that's different from the HULC (see a video here of the Science behind the HULC) is the kind of power the motors use and how much they need. The HULC uses hydraulic systems for extra strength and requires a lot more power. The Ekso uses smaller electric motors and is powered by what is essentially a laptop battery (if a bit more powerful). It doesn't need to lift hundreds of pounds in addition to the user, so it can be made smaller and slimmer. Eventually, the company also hopes to make one that can be easily taken on and off and is small enough to wear.