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Father builds exoskeleton that allows son with mobility disability to walk

Oscar Constanza with his father Jean-Louis Constanza.
Photo: Jean-Louis Constanza/Facebook

Oscar Constanza, 16, gives the simple order – “Robot stand up” and a large frame strapped to his body lifts him up and he begins walking.

As reported by Reuters, Oscar is unable to walk due to a genetic neurological condition that prevents his nerves from sending enough signals to his legs.

The exoskeleton, co-created by his father Jean-Louis Constanza, one of the co-founders of the Paris company, Wandercraft , is fastened to Oscar’s shoulders, chest, waist, knees and feet.

“Before, I needed someone to help me walk … this makes me feel independent,” said Oscar.

“One day Oscar said to me: ‘dad, you’re a robotic engineer, why don’t you make a robot that would allow us to walk?'” his father recalled.

“Ten years from now, there will be no, or far fewer, wheelchairs,” he said.

Many companies around the world are also manufacturing exoskeletons, competing to make them as light and usable as possible. Some are focused on helping people with mobility disabilities walk, others on a series of applications, including making standing less tiring for factory workers.

Wandercraft’s exoskeleton, an outer frame that supports but also simulates body movement, has been sold to dozens of hospitals in France, Luxembourg and the United States, for about 150,000 euros ($176,000) a piece, Constanza said.

It isn’t available for sale yet by private individuals – that is the next stage the company is working on. A personal skeleton would need to be much lighter, Wandercraft engineers said.

Just outside Paris, 33-year-old Kevin Piette, who lost the ability to walk in a bike accident 10 years ago, puts on the exoskeleton and walks around his flat, remote controller in hand.

“In the end it’s quite similar: instead of having the information going from the brain to the legs, it goes from the remote controller to the legs,” he said, before making his dinner and walking with it from the kitchen to the living room.