'Bionic woman' Claire Lomas is first woman to take robotic suit home

 

A British woman paralysed from the chest down by a horse riding accident has become the first person to take home a robotic exoskeleton that enables her to walk.

Although bionic exoskeletons have been used in hospitals and rehabilitation centres, Claire Lomas is the first to take the ReWalk suit home for everyday use.

Lomas earlier this year used the suit to complete the London Marathon in 17 days, raising about £200,000 for research into spinal damage, and she was recently given the job of lighting the Paralympic cauldron in Trafalgar Square.

But she said more routine activities are equally gratifying.

"One of the best experiences was standing at a bar," she said. "To be stood up in this means everything to me."

Larry Jasinski, chief executive of Argo Medical Technologies, the company that developed the suit, told Reuters he was initially nervous about backing the marathon bid because the suit was still being tested but Lomas said it held up well.

"The suit was really reliable in the worst weather and I got there 17 days later," she said.

The exoskeleton is activated by the wearer tilting their balance to indicate the desire to take a step. It supports the body's weight and also allows the person to go up or down stairs, as well as sit or stand up independently.

It costs £45,000 and although clinical studies are ongoing that could back a case for health authorities to fund purchases of the device, the developers argue that savings on the treatment of ailments related to inactivity could offset the cost.

The company estimates that of the 6 million wheelchair users in the US and Europe, around 250,000 could be suitable for using the ReWalk device.

A report in 2010 by US firm ABI Research forecast the market for this technology could be worth $320 million within 10 years.

In the meantime, says Jasinski, the US and Israeli military have shown an interest for use by injured soldiers.

Research into exoskeletons goes back 50 years but advances in software management systems and sensors have only recently made them practical.

Argo, which is backed by Israeli venture capitalists SCP Vitalife and Israeli Healthcare Ventures, is working on a similar device for quadriplegics, as well as a brain interface that could allow more intuitive 'thought control' of the exoskeleton.

Although Jasinski says this is still years away, scientists have recently unveiled devices that can be controlled in real time by thought using advanced brain scanning.

Others are working on materials that can interact with human nerves and tissue that could eventually lead to prosthetics that are fused with the body and controlled directly by the nervous system.

In June, a team at Maastricht University in the Netherlands unveiled a device that uses functional magnetic resonance imaging, which monitors blood flow in the brain, to allow people to spell out words simply by thinking of each letter.

Another experiment reported in July saw FMRI used by a man at Bar-Ilan University in Israel to control the movements of a robot thousands of miles away at Beziers Technology Institute in France.

Lomas said that after her accident, she rejected pleas from doctors to give up on the idea of using her legs, saying that as a young, active woman before her 2007 accident, "I didn't want to have a big stomach and spindly legs".

Since the accident she has got married, had a child, and next year plans a London-to-Paris bicycle ride using a so-called Functional Electrical Stimulation bike that artificially stimulates the paralysed rider's own muscles to propel it along.

Reuters

News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor