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In Israeli Tour, Obama Checks Out ReWalk Exoskeleton Technology

Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, shown in the background on the right, speak with Sergeant Theresa Hannigan, left, and Radi Kaiuf, center, on their tour of the Technology Expo in Jerusalem.  Photo: AP

The ReWalk robotic exoskeleton from Argo Medical Technologies (Yokneam Ilit, Israel) is an impressive piece of engineering. The exoskeleton suit draws on motion sensors, computers, DC-motorized legs to enable paralyzed patients to walk. Behind the device are hundreds of algorithms and sensors working in concert. Rechargeable lithium-ion battery technology allows the unit to function for eight hours with a single charge. Software included with the device can detect if a user is about to fall.

In Obama's recent tour of Israel, he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu witnessed the technology in action. Paralyzed U.S. Army veteran Theresa Hannigan and Israel Defense Forces veteran Radi Kaiuf demonstrated how the ReWalk enables them to stand and walk.

The ReWalk exoskeleton is able to imitate the natural human gait by controlling movement using subtle changes in the center of gravity. The system uses sensors to detect when the user tilts their body forward, causing a step forward. A backward lean triggers a backward step. Users of the device are also able to climb stairs.

Obama's visit to see the ReWalk was not the first time the technology has received mainstream attention. The system was featured in an episode of Glee in 2010. Last year, a paralyzed woman named Claire Thomas used the ReWalk to complete the London Marathon.

When the ReWalk first debuted in 2008, SolidWorks announced that its 3-D CAD software was used to design the device, refining the initial design for the unit proposed by ReWalk inventor and founder, Amit Goffer, PhD. The software was used to determine leg brace length, joint angle range, and the level of pressure the joints could accommodate.

The ReWalk P model of the technology was cleared for sale in Europe in 2012. In the United States, regulatory approval is still pending.

A product video from the company shows the device in action.

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