There was a time when a war wound to the leg meant the best you could hope for was a stiff drink and a piece of rope to bite down on while a surgeon sawed through your bloodied limb. But today's advancements in exoskeleton technology means we can not only save the damaged leg, but make it work again too.
The US army's solution is the Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis (IDEO), which is helping soldiers regain the ability to walk after coming under fire or being injured by a blast. Built by a company called Hangar, it's a carbon-fiber frame that attaches to the leg below the knee and connects to a foot plate in a shoe. As the wearer's weakened leg pushes down on the footplate, the IDEO is loaded up with the transferred auxiliary power, which it then converts into an increased pushing motion to propel the wearer forward, much like a healthy leg would.
Now being made available to civilians too, IDEOs have helped more than 500 people walk again since 2009. Among that 500, 60 are soldiers who have returned to active combat with the aid of the IDEO. That's one small step towards having an army of Robocops out there, fighting the good fight. [Wired]