NASA is currently working in conjunction with the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) located in Pensacola, Florida to continue to develop what is known as X1 which is a robotic exoskeleton. The robotic exoskeleton or X1 is a fifty-seven pound device that humans could wear over their body to assist or even help inhibits movements in the human leg joints.
If we think in detail about this new technology being shaped, improved and developed by NASA this can really prove now and in the future to be a great benefit for not only handicapped people that have suffered spinal cord injuries that have impaired their movement in certain joints in their lower body but as a huge benefit for the many veterans coming home from Afghanistan that have suffered traumatic injuries from roadside bombs and IED`s. This new technology currently in the research and development stage could not have come at a better time.
X1 is currently working side by side with astronauts on the International Space Station at the present time and is also sot of working as a Total Gym o exercise device that astronauts are using for resistant training. The resistance training is sort of like using the leg extension machine at a gym.
Astronauts are getting a first-hand look and feel for this new robotic device and are getting a chance to not only test the robot and its effectiveness in helping with exercising the leg joints and muscles but to also give feedback on how well and effective this device really is and what improvements are need to make it the complete choice for handicapped individuals and physicians. So, the robotic device at the present time is being looked at for two benefits, first to be a device that astronauts in space could use as a way to exercise and second a device that could prove to be someone`s angel by giving them a chance to walk again or walk for the first time.
Michael Gazarik who is the Director of NASA Space Technology Program commented on this new robotic device by saying, "Robotics is playing a key role aboard the International Space Station and will be critical in our future human exploration of deep space. What`s extraordinary about space technology and our work with projects like Robonaut are the unexpected possibilities space tech spinoffs may have right here on Earth. It`s exciting to see a NASA-developed technology might one day help people with serious ambulatory needs to begin to walk again, or even walk for the first time. That`s the sort of return on investment NASA is proud to give back to America and the world." (Gazarik, M)
This new robotic device is worn over the legs with a harness that can reach up the persons back and around their shoulders, so it is pretty snug and should fit as a mold to each individual`s body shape. The device also allows about ten degrees of movement or freedom or known as joints which consist of four motorized joints at the hips and the knees and six passive joints that allow the person the freedom for sidestepping, tuning, and flexing their feet. The device also allows for any adjustments which gives the user many different ways to be able to use this robotic device for its full benefit capacity.
As with any high-technological entity like the new X1 robotic device you want to use it for more than just a device that helps people walk or walk again one day but you want to use it for the full capacity of benefit it has to potentially offer. One of these benefits as mentioned above is it is being looked at for an exercise device for use on those long deployments in space for astronauts to be able to stay healthy while enduring microgravity. One of the benefits of this device is that it will not take up valuable space or add additional heavy weight as if a regular exercise machine was taken on missions and it has the capability to record data and stream that data back to Earth for the monitoring of astronauts physical exercise programs. The other big benefit of this device is when astronauts go on their foot exploration on those lonely spacewalks to explore the surfaces of planetary bodies. The device would also give the benefits of additional force when needed during space exploration.
The device will also offer handicapped people the benefit of high torques which allow for assisted walking over various types of terrain and for stair climbing. Ken Ford who is IHMC`s (the partner who is working with NASA on the development of this robotic device) elaborated more on XI by saying, "We greatly value our collaboration with NASA. The X1`s high-performance capabilities will enable IHMC to continue performing cutting-edge research in mobility assistance and expand into rehabilitation." (Ford, K.)
The XI robotic device is a much better prototype than the older models of exoskeleton devices which now allows the wearer to have more comfort and less bulky weight that the older devices made wearing a nightmare. Now, the new X1 device is easier to adjust and give the wearer a sense of being in fit heaven with the added comfort. So, the research, development and testing stage of the X1 robotic device is ongoing and with every test comes an added benefit for anyone that may be once again given the chance to walk again o the felling of walking for the first-time in their life. Also, for any astronaut that decided to work out on those long missions will have the health benefits of staying in shape and at least have stronger legs as a result of the added resistance training this new device has to offer the health enthusiast.
NASA AND IHMC DEVELOP ROBOTIC EXOSKELETON FOR SPACE AND POSSIBLE USE ON EARTH
(http://www.nasa.gov/robonaut). Retrieved 2012.
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