A world first wearable robot known as REX that helps wheelchair users stand and walk will be available in Australia within three months.

The forty kilogram device known as REX comprises more than 8000 components and 29 custom onboard computers. It allows users to stand, walk on flat surfaces and turn in any direction. Unlike any other exoskeleton, REX does not require crutches or a walking frame, leaving the hands free to do other things and eliminating the risk of shoulder injury.

The robot is simple and easy to use, with users manoeuvering it via a user friendly keypad and joystick.

REX is available in two models. The first is for use in rehabilitation centres. It can be rapidly adjusted to fit any user, offers 25 different walking modes and enables patients to be mobile and active within minutes. The second model is custom fitted for personal use and is able to navigate stairs, slopes or uneven terrain via sensors in the feet allowing it to be used in the home, workplace, or out and about.

The device, developed by New Zealand company Rex Bionics Limited, has been privately demonstrated to the Australian medical community and the company expects initial orders to be placed in the coming months.

28 year old New Zealander Jarrad Pearse severed his spinal cord in a car accident eight years ago and has been a test engineer for the robotic technology.

He said the revolutionary REX exoskeleton technology is today helping him stand, walk and live with greater independence and improved health. "For me, one hour in REX means a week free of pain," he said.

"To be able to stand and move about is something that we all take for granted until we can't do it," he said. "Using REX regularly has given me much better overall health, my lower body circulation is better and I have better bladder and bowel function. As a full time wheelchair user, these medical challenges are a daily part of my life and using REX has allowed me to get them under control for the first time."

REX Bionics Limited founder and Chief Executive Officer Richard Little said the technology would revolutionise rehabilitation for spinal cord injury patients.

"The human body was not designed to sit down for long periods," he said. "REX is a world first medical technology. It is changing lives.

"It is essential to keep muscles and vital organs working as efficiently as possible. Enabling wheelchair bound patients to stand upright and move independently has a psychological benefit, certainly, but more importantly it also helps to minimise the impact and severity of many of the medical conditions we see in wheelchair users."

"These conditions include pain, bowel obstructions and urinary tract infections, as well as loss of bone density, scoliosis and pressure sores. They are costly conditions to treat, and debilitating to the patient. Anything we can do to lessen these health conditions represents a substantial improvement in the user's quality of life."

3 images of REX in use.
REX is expected to be available in Australia within three months and is currently priced at US$150,000.
Image credit: REX Bionics Limited