July 11, 2004

The ReWalk is a light, wearable brace support suit which comprises DC motors at the joints, rechargeable batteries, an array of sensors and a computer-based control system.Last December, after seven years of confinement to a wheelchair, Shabtai, was able to take a few steps again. The former athlete who broke his neck in a car accident was once more mobile thanks to ReWalk, a product that promises to restore upright mobility for paraplegics, quadriplegics and others suffering from walking impairments.

“We aim to end the 200-year monopoly of the wheelchair,” says Dr. Amit Goffer, the CEO and founder of Argo Medical Technologies, the company that is developing ReWalk. The device uses a combination of motors and sensors to enable people with lower limb disabilities to carry out routine ambulatory functions such as standing, walking and climbing stairs.

“The device promises to restore the dignity of disabled persons, enabling them to work and improve their general health and quality of life, as well as significantly reduce medical and other related expenses,” says Goffer.

The product is in the prototype stage but Goffer feels that upon completion of fund-raising the company could have a product on the market within 4 years.

Goffer, an electronics engineer, already has a proven track record as an entrepreneur. He is the founder of Odin Medical, the developer of a mini-MRI imaging device which enables brain surgeons to conduct real-time brain scans in the operating room.

“Before I came up with the idea for both the mini-MRI and ReWalk, I was puzzled by the question of why each product didn`t already exist as each meets such an obvious and large need,” says Goffer.

In the case of ReWalk, the need is reflected in the number of individuals confined to wheelchairs which in the U.S. alone is about two million.

The ReWalk is a light, wearable brace support suit which comprises DC motors at the joints, rechargeable batteries, an array of sensors and a computer-based control system. “Similar to the recently-developed Segway, when the user indicates he or she wants to move in a certain direction, the sensors recognize this and the user is able to move at will,” explains Goffer.

“Also, it`s important to point out that because the ReWalk is snugly fitted on the body and worn underneath the clothing, it also helps the users avoid the type of visible stigma that a wheelchair user faces,” he adds.

Unlike other products being developed, the novelty of ReWalk is in the unique manner in which the user is actively involved in the walk-restoration and other mobility functions, through the control processes. Utilizing sophisticated algorithms, upper-body motions are analyzed and used to trigger and maintain walk (gait) patterns and other modes of operation (such as transition from sitting to standing), leaving the hands free for self support and/or other functions.

Goffer is confident that ReWalk will enable many people with disabilities to enter or return to the workforce. He points out that this benefit to society, as reflected in the US gross national product averages $120,000 per year for each working person.

“But of course it`s more than a dollar and cents issue,” says Goffer. “When Shabtai tried out the prototype there were tears in his eyes and in the eyes of everyone else present. It was a breathtaking experience to see him able to physically express himself again.”

(Reprinted from BioIsrael)

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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