This modular exoskeleton lets disabled children walk on their own two feet

If California robotics startup SuitX has anything anything to say about it, wheelchairs might be obsolete in just a few short years. Earlier today, the company revealed a new exoskeleton, dubbed the Phoenix, designed to help disabled people get around without the help of wheeled mobility devices. It’s definitely not the first suit of its kind, but it also happens to be cheaper, lighter, and easier to manufacture than most other devices of its kind, which is a pretty big deal.

For the most part, the Phoenix works just like most other exoskeletons do. It’s essentially a wearable robot that augments and enhances the wearer’s movements — but it’s also got a few innovative new design features that make it more user-friendly.

“We started SuitX out of our passion to develop low-cost consumer bionic products to improve the quality of life for people around the world,” creator Dr. Homayoon Kazerooni said in a statement. “We have tackled problems associated with design, human machine interface (HMI), actuation, power management, and control during the development of our medical exoskeletons. We designed the Phoenix to be accessible and versatile so that it can be used by children.”

First and foremost, it’s relatively lightweight. Tipping the scales at just 27 pounds, the Phoenix weighs almost half as much as the ReWalk exoskeleton — its biggest competitor. Yet despite the lack of heft, the Phoenix still sports enough battery power to provide four hours of continuous walking, or roughly eight hours of intermittent use. That’s more than enough to get a person to the grocery store and back (though at a top speed of 1.1 miles per hour, it might still be faster to use a wheelchair).

The Phoenix system is also designed to be modular, so it can easily be rearranged as needed to suit a wider range of people and disabilities. Most other exosuits are typically designed for people who have mobility issues in both legs, but the Phoenix’s design allows it to adapt to, say, a tall person who only needs assistance for one knee. Additionally, the suit’s gait parameters can be fine tuned via an Android app so that the assisted walking motions feel more natural and comfortable to the wearer.

And the best part? The suit’s minimal design makes it relatively cheap to manufacture, so SuitX can sell it for just $40,000. Of course, that’s still ridiculously expensive by most people’s standards, but in comparison to other exoskeletons that are currently available (which typically cost around $70,000 to $100,000), that’s a tiny sum. SuitX hopes that this will make exoskeleton technology more accessible for people who those who need it.

The company is currently accepting pre-orders, and expects that the first Phoenix exoskeletons will ship out sometime in March.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Too buzzed to drive? Don’t worry — this autonomous car-bar will drive to you

It might just be the best or worst idea that we've ever heard: A self-driving robot bartender you can summon with an app, which promises to mix you the perfect drink wherever you happen to be.
Home Theater

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.
Mobile

T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.
Emerging Tech

ANYmal dog robot can get back on its feet when someone pushes it over

Roboticists at ETH Zurich have demonstrated how their ANYmal four-legged robot is capable of taking a kicking and keeping on walking -- or getting back to its feet if it's pushed over.
Emerging Tech

A.I. finds non-infringing ways to copy drugs pharma spends billions developing

Researchers have demonstrated an artificial intelligence which can find new methods for producing existing pharmaceuticals in a way that doesn’t infringe on existing patents. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Coinstar machines will let you swap cash for Bitcoin at your local grocery store

Coinstar, the company which owns the coin exchange machines found at grocery stores and elsewhere, will soon let you easily buy Bitcoin with your cash money. Here's how it will work.
Emerging Tech

Facebook hasn’t given up on the idea of building an internet drone

Facebook's efforts to provide internet connectivity from the skies using solar-powered drones suffered a blow last year when the company abandoned its "Aquila" drone project. But the company clearly hasn't given up on the idea.