A truly inspiring use of technology

I love advanced technology, sometimes purely for its own sake. But for me the best thing about technology is when it allows us to do neat or interesting things that were basically inconceivable before. The world wide web, for example. The human genome project. Cellular telephones. Satellite TV. And so on…

But it isn’t very often that technology does something so amazing that it brings tears to my eyes. That is the case with this story I came across on Gizmodo. You can watch this video to see what I mean:

The man in the video has been paralyzed, without any control or feeling of his legs, for over 20 years. The Argo ReWalk exoskeleton he’s using allows him to stand, walk, and climb stairs while using the balance and motion of the working parts of his body to control the device. The technology is workable today. In a couple of decades, particularly with recent advances in neural monitoring, I imagine the whole mechanism could be made almost as natural looking as normal walking.

Like most technology, exoskeletons have benefitted from military interest. A soldier has a hard time carrying a 50 kilo pack of gear, but if you give him some mechanical assist that same soldier might be able to carry 100 kilos with virtually no effort. That’s interesting, to be sure. But just imagine what it would feel like, after two decades stuck in chair, to be able to stand up and walk beside a friend? Wow…

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