Berkeley Bionics eLEGS “Practical” for Wheelchair Paraplegics?!… A Realist’s Perspective.

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eLEGS… Bringing back memories of the Original Nintendo Power Glove & Robo-Cop.

Sadly, these robo-legs remind me of the old original original original Nintendo “power glove”…  When first introduced to the market there was much hype and it looked highly impressive, but the daily functionality was absolutely lacking…

Berkeley Bionics introduced “eLEGS” within the last year. eLEGS is an exoskeleton for people paralyzed in wheelchairs. I apologize in advance for being a realist, but here goes…

The Berkeley Bionics website  boasts “Endurance. Strength. Accessibility. Enhanced quality of life. Health. Balance. Coordination. Do what you love“…… FYI- the “Do what you love” is bold text on their website as well, which makes a beautiful contrast next to all the other pretty words which were carefully chosen.

Don’t get it twisted. I give the engineers credit for their creation. They’ve raised the bar, engineering something nobody else could make.  But, realistically it doesn’t seem as amazing and “practical” as suggested. Claiming on their homepage “First company in the world to develop a practical exoskeleton”.  I say, that by definition, eLEGS are far from “practical”.  In my opinion, they should be a bit more realistic about the approach taken when marketing this heavy obtuse piece of metal with velcro backpack battery attachment… The Berkeley Bionics eLEGS video on YouTube proudly boasts “for wheelchair users who are committed to living life to the fullest”…. Well, my dear friends at Berkeley Bionics,  I (and many others) feel very “committed” to living life to the fullest, which by the way shouldn’t be defined by whether or not a person uses version 1.0 robo-legs..  In my opinion these eLEGS are suited for physical therapy facilities across the nation for rehabilitation strengthening at best, not “living life to the fullest” as they so proudly boast.

I say, if you’ve developed a product that can absolutely back up all the hype, then, by all means sell “hope” for a financial gain…. On the other hand, if the product, like  robo-legs (eLEGS), is entirely new and barely beta-tested by paraplegics in wheelchairs, don’t sell “hope” to pad your pockets… Sorry Berkeley Bionics, I’m just sayin..  Maybe there will come a day when Berkeley Bionics “eLEGS” can live up to the marketing slogan hype they’ve carefully chosen.  I will absolutely be impressed if/when that day comes, shouting and praising their name from a mountain top…  The truth is, we are far from that day, so until then, kindly change your marketing approach.

After being injured I realized just how fragile life was. Therefore, I choose to live life to the fullest each and every day. The idea of walking is more than the physical act.   The idea of walking is not deliberate and exhausting.  The idea of walking doesn’t require 40+ pound robo-leg attachments. The idea of walking shouldn’t require me to be white knuckle gripped to crutches.  The distance I choose to walk shouldn’t be decided by a 4 hour battery pack that’s velco strapped to me like a ball and chain, only allowing me to walk just so far..  So, when people around me get excited about metal robot legs I can attach to my real legs, I start to think… and sadly,  I don’t share the same enthusiasm.  I’m sure E-legs will have a practical daily use for an acute group of people. But for $30,000-$50,000 a pair I’ll need to roll up on a bank and pull a heist before I could own robo-legs… My health insurance company won’t reimburse me for a $27 shower bench, so they definitely won’t be lining up to pay a price tag of 30-50k!  I say, if you have 30-50k for robo-legs, take the money and spend it on something that makes you smile.

So, in closing, I think I’ll pass on Berkeley Bionics eLEGS as my daily driver. Realistically, they won’t be able to help functionally during any part of my day.

Sadly, without some sort of medical advance (ie: stem cell), these eLEGS could NEVER completely put Humpty Dumpty back together again.  So I’ll be the guy hoping for something more realistic..

This is simply my own opinion, and it’s absolutely not intended to anger anyone on a personal level. Do you agree? D0 you disagree?  Any and all thoughts are welcome and appreciated.

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Showing 7 comments
  • Josh Merryman

    Well said. I totally agree and while I can appreciate the ingenuity of this device it should be marketed as hardware. This company should scrap it’s marketing towards emotions and sell it for what it is- an accessory.

  • Douglas T Neidermeyer

    Agreed. I love the line “…My health insurance company won’t reimburse me for a $27 shower bench, so they definitely won’t be lining up to pay a price tag of 30-50k! I say, if you have 30-50k for robo-legs, take the money and spend it on something that makes you smile…”

  • Adam

    Hugh Herr, MIT wunderkind of an engineer, lost both of his legs due to a climbing accident when he was but a teenager. Far from someone thinking of ways to profit off those who have lost physical capacities, he is someone who wishes to restore capacity to active people like himself. Heavily funded by government sources, for we have many wounded soldiers to yet accommodate with adequate solutions for their lost limbs, Herr wears prototypes upon his body. Stem-cell solutions are still years off (and may have biological side effects such as cancer). Cost prohibitive for certain, I encourage all to read a November 2010 Discover Magazine article profiling Herr & his technology in hopes that promising options may be seen by some. In this article, Herr (seemingly without profit-motive) extols the greater nimbleness on mountain sides he now has with his lighter than flesh, stronger than bone frames of his artificial legs. Optimism & Advancement, in hope, for all.

  • Millserd

    Yea I agree. There will def be a day when these type of elegs will be a viable solution for paras etc…but that day is not now. But as tech advances we can be sure to see this option again. But this at the moment is far from practical for any of us paras.

  • Arno

    Agree! These legs are in my opinion only for rehabilitation.
    I’ve also seen someone, 10 years ago, who placed wires on his legs and was able to walk with this electrostimulation. That’s what really made his bloodcirculation going! Not these Eleggs, that’s for sure.

  • Mimi

    Here’s my perspective as a “walking wheelie”. I’m not a prospective beneficiary of this technology because I can already walk with crutches. My walking with crutches much resembles walking done with the aid of eLeggs and the other exoskeleton technologies out there. 90% of the time I would rather wheel than walk with crutches…it’s laborious and its slow. Wheeling is so much faster and easier. I didn’t like these bionic legs from the beginning but I thought…okay, maybe it’s just me, since I can walk already, I just don’t “get” it. Interesting to see that a lot of you guys feel the same way.

  • Ashley

    I completely agree, I just watched the video for eLegs and looked at their site. It looks cool if you want to be ironman, but on a day to day basis it is not practical in any way, shape, or form. It could be a great thing for physical therapy and home therapy if they had a rental process or a payment plan, but other than that it’s not something they should use to market “hope” for the world of the disabled. The technology for it could be greatly inhanced and could take everything to a new level, but I don’t think anyone in their payrole or world is smart enough to create such a thing. I’m still waiting on stem cell advances and wish they were able to do more with it. Till them, I’m content and living life to the fullest.

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