Today Matt Tillford walked across the stage at The Atlantic's Big Science Summit. So what? Tillford has been paralyzed since a 2007 car crash.
Matt Tilford is standing on stage at The Atlantic's Big Science Summit in San Jose, California, wearing a shiny black backpack and braces that extend down his legs. "Every time I get in it, I ask to take it home," explains Tilford. The reason: He shouldn't be standing at all. A car crash in 2007 permanently wiped out his ability to walk.
But today he's standing next to Russ Angold, co-founder and chief technology officer of Ekso Bionics, whose company is responsible for the equipment that has Tilford standing again. Tilford's's backpack and braces are actually part of a sleek-looking exoskeleton that helps him walk from his chair to center stage.
Leg braces, of course, have been around for ages, but what makes this frame unique is that it's actually a smartly designed robot, predicting when Tilford would like to take his next step and moving one leg and then another forward.
The device, which Tilford began using at a physical therapy center about a year ago, can be nudged into action in three ways. At first, a patient's first step could be triggered by a physical therapist. But with time, users can signal they'd like to start walking via a button on the crutch, or, as they get used to it, by simply leaning forward.