Robotic exoskeleton could free people from wheelchairs

REX robot helps people in wheelchairs.

For people with disabilities life presents a number of challenges.

However, a new device removes some of those challenges and may one day open a lot of doors.

It's like something straight out of science fiction. Think of it. A machine that can help people with disabilities stand up and walk.

Shawn Friedkin, paralyzed in an auto accident in 1992, is trying out a set of new bionic legs.

"It's just really cool. I mean, to be able to stand and walk around, and feel like I'm tall, which is something I haven't been in a long time, it's just like I want to use it everyday," Friedkin said.

The device is called REX, short for robotic exoskeleton.

A high-tech computerized robot-assisted invention made of carbon fiber and aluminum that can free people from their wheelchairs.

The inventor and the manufacturer brought it to FAU in Boca Raton for a demonstration.

Right now, REX is only being used in a few hospitals and physical therapy centers in the U.S. to help people exercise.

There are only about two dozen of these Rex Bionic devices in the world.

By operating a joy-stick the user can walk forward, backward, and also turn.

There's another version of REX that can also climb stairs. It is adjustable, depending on a person's height.

It was invented by a guy from New Zealand in his garage.

"We've seen people stand for the first time or the first time in a long time and that's always emotional and amazing to be there," said Richard Little, Rex Bionics founder and inventor.

The pricetag: $160,000.

But it offers the kind of freedom that is priceless for a person with disabilities.

"I think a device like this really helps to create more independence. One of the most difficult things for people living with disabilities is figuring how to get back into society," said Friedkin.

Right now, these are not in anyone's home here in the United States but the FDA is expected to approve these for home use in as little as two years.

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