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TED2011

Eythor Bender: Human exoskeletons -- for war and healing

March 2, 2011

Eythor Bender of Berkeley Bionics brings onstage two amazing exoskeletons, HULC and eLEGS -- robotic add-ons that could one day allow a human to carry 200 pounds without tiring, or allow a wheelchair user to stand and walk. It's a powerful onstage demo, with implications for human potential of all kinds.

Eythor Bender - Berkeley Bionics' CEO
Eythor Bender is the CEO of Berkeley Bionics, which augments humans with wearable, powered and artificially intelligent devices called exoskeletons or "wearable robots." Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
I want you now to imagine
00:15
a wearable robot
00:18
that gives you superhuman abilities,
00:21
or another one that takes wheelchair users
00:25
up standing and walking again.
00:29
We at Berkeley Bionics
00:33
call these robots exoskeletons.
00:36
These are nothing else
00:40
than something that you put on in the morning,
00:42
and it will give you extra strength,
00:45
and it will further enhance your speed,
00:48
and it will help you, for instance, to manage your balance.
00:52
It is actually the true integration
00:56
of the man and the machine.
01:00
But not only that --
01:02
it will integrate and network you
01:04
to the universe
01:06
and other devices out there.
01:08
This is just not some blue sky thinking.
01:10
To show you now what we are working on
01:13
by starting out talking about
01:16
the American soldier,
01:18
that on average does carry about 100 lbs. on their backs,
01:20
and they are being asked to carry more equipment.
01:24
Obviously, this is resulting
01:27
in some major complications --
01:30
back injuries, 30 percent of them --
01:32
chronic back injuries.
01:36
So we thought we would look at this challenge
01:38
and create an exoskeleton
01:41
that would help deal with this issue.
01:44
So let me now introduce to you HULC --
01:48
or the Human Universal
01:52
Load Carrier.
01:54
Soldier: With the HULC exoskeleton,
01:57
I can carry 200 lbs. over varied terrain
01:59
for many hours.
02:01
Its flexible design allows for deep squats,
02:03
crawls and high-agility movements.
02:05
It senses what I want to do, where I want to go,
02:08
and then augments my strength and endurance.
02:11
Eythor Bender: We are ready with our industry partner
02:17
to introduce this device,
02:20
this new exoskeleton this year.
02:22
So this is for real.
02:25
Now let's turn our heads
02:27
towards the wheelchair users,
02:30
something that I'm particularly passionate about.
02:33
There are 68 million people
02:36
estimated to be in wheelchairs worldwide.
02:38
This is about one percent of the total population.
02:41
And that's actually a conservative estimate.
02:44
We are talking here about, oftentimes,
02:47
very young individuals with spinal cord injuries,
02:49
that in the prime of their life -- 20s, 30s, 40s --
02:52
hit a wall
02:55
and the wheelchair's the only option.
02:57
But it is also the aging population
02:59
that is multiplying in numbers.
03:01
And the only option, pretty much --
03:04
when it's stroke or other complications --
03:07
is the wheelchair.
03:09
And that is actually for the last 500 years,
03:11
since its very successful introduction, I must say.
03:15
So we thought we would start
03:19
writing a brand new chapter
03:21
of mobility.
03:24
Let me now introduce you to eLEGS
03:27
that is worn by Amanda Boxtel
03:30
that 19 years ago was spinal cord injured,
03:34
and as a result of that
03:38
she has not been able to walk
03:40
for 19 years until now.
03:42
(Applause)
03:45
Amanda Boxtel: Thank you.
03:48
(Applause)
03:50
EB: Amanda is wearing our eLEGS set.
03:55
It has sensors.
03:59
It's completely non-invasive,
04:02
sensors in the crutches
04:04
that send signals back to our onboard computer
04:06
that is sitting here at her back.
04:09
There are battery packs here as well
04:12
that power motors that are sitting at her hips,
04:14
as well as her knee joints,
04:17
that move her forward
04:19
in this kind of smooth and very natural gait.
04:21
AB: I was 24 years old
04:28
and at the top of my game
04:30
when a freak summersault while downhill skiing
04:32
paralyzed me.
04:35
In a split second,
04:37
I lost all sensation and movement
04:39
below my pelvis.
04:42
Not long afterwards,
04:45
a doctor strode into my hospital room,
04:47
and he said, "Amanda,
04:50
you'll never walk again."
04:52
And that was 19 yeas ago.
04:56
He robbed
04:59
every ounce of hope
05:01
from my being.
05:03
Adaptive technology
05:05
has since enabled me
05:07
to learn how to downhill ski again,
05:09
to rock climb and even handcycle.
05:11
But nothing has been invented
05:14
that enables me to walk,
05:18
until now.
05:20
(Applause)
05:22
Thank you.
05:25
(Applause)
05:27
EB: As you can see,
05:35
we have the technology,
05:37
we have the platforms
05:39
to sit down and have discussions with you.
05:41
It's in our hands,
05:44
and we have all the potential here
05:46
to change the lives
05:50
of future generations --
05:52
not only for the soldiers,
05:54
or for Amanda here and all the wheelchair users,
05:58
but for everyone.
06:02
AB: Thanks.
06:04
(Applause)
06:06

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Eythor Bender - Berkeley Bionics' CEO
Eythor Bender is the CEO of Berkeley Bionics, which augments humans with wearable, powered and artificially intelligent devices called exoskeletons or "wearable robots."

Why you should listen

Eythor Bender is the CEO of Berkeley Bionics, which augments humans with wearable, powered and artificially intelligent devices called exoskeletons or "wearable robots." User of the HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier) can carry up to 200 pounds for hours and over all terrains. eLEGS, an exoskeleton for wheelchair users, powers paraplegics up to get them standing and walking.

Bender has fostered innovation with bionic and orthopedic technologies throughout his career, taking them from unconventional approaches to sustainable, FDA-approved products that help individuals participate in their community. Such was the case with the boomerang-shaped prosthesis Cheetah Flex-Foot by Ossur, worn by the history-making bilateral amputee Oscar Pistorius. Bender's team fought for, and won, Pistorius' right to compete in the Olympics.

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