When Kevin Oldt crashed his snowmobile in January 2001, his doctors told him that his spinal cord injury meant he’d never walk again. He was devastated. So it’s with great satisfaction that he tells me his personal record for walking with the help of a robotic exoskeleton from Ekso Bionics: about 5,000 steps in one day.
He clocked those steps in a Dallas convention hall where he spent 4 hours on the show floor demonstrating the features of the Ekso GT, the company’s current commercial model. “And I didn’t feel tired,” he says. “I felt great.”
Oldt recently gave IEEE Spectrum a personal demo at a New York City hotel , accompanied by Ekso CEO Tom Looby and an Ekso physical therapist. While the Ekso GT’s hardware hasn’t changed since it launched in 2014, they were doing a media tour to show how its evolving software has broadened its scope. Thanks to its “variable assist” software, the Ekso GT is the first exoskeleton cleared for use by stroke patients in the United States. It won that FDA approval last April.