Walking his way into the future

When Robocop hit theaters, it was completely fictious and improbable that a severely wounded cop was able to walk, move and fight crime again. But that movie came out 24 years ago and there are changes afoot.

Last month, Austin Whitney took his first steps in four years after being paralyzed in a car accident.  He choose his commencement for this momentous coming out. It was his dream to walk on stage and receive his diploma and in front of the 2011 graduating class he did just that.

Robocop and a paraplegic Berkeley graduate come together in reality through the concept of bionic limbs which in 2011 are made by ReWalk . Led by mechanical engineering Professor Homayoon Kazerooni, a team of graduate students built an exoskeleton, which allowed Austin to fulfill his dream. Prof. Homayoon has had experience working with robotic exoskeletons, as founder of Berkeley Bionics, a company that is currently in the trial process of another exoskeleton that is expected to be available by 2013.

The exoskeleton worn by Austin, weighs 40 pounds and took 9 months to get to a comfortably usable stage. You can read more about this fascinating product including how it works and watch Austin receive his diploma here.


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Use of technology to help disabled… or not

In seven years a lot has changed with regard to technology at least in the eyes of former TV engineer Jeff Hall. At the age of 40 Jeff was paralyzed by a stroke that left him with only limited movement in his head, arms and legs. With the help of his text-to-voice synthesizer and common everyday technologies, he is able to live his life, sending text messages or emailing  his friends. This is all made possible by disabled designers that big companies, such as Microsoft, employ to provide a different approach of thinking and feedback on the products they create,  making them more accessible by anyone and everyone. Read more on how technology has changed and how it may be a hindrance to people with disabilities  in this  BBC article.

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