After one of the co-founders was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, New Zealand’s REX developed a hands-free, independently-controlled, robotic walking device
We have often seen wheelchair users suffer from multiple health issues arising from lack of mobility. Wouldn’t it be great to have a device that can help wheelchair users stand up and walk again?
Meet REX, a New Zealand-based company that has developed the first hands-free, self-supporting, independently-controlled, robotic walking device designed specifically for wheelchair users.
Richard Little and Robert Irving started designing REX when Irving was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2003. With both founders having had direct experience of the day-to-day challenges and side effects of prolonged wheelchair use, they set about developing an alternative which would allow a wheelchair user to stand and walk.
“Rex Bionics completed the first prototype REX Personal in 2007 — a device which allows a mobility-impaired user to stand, walk, turn to the left or the right, step sideways, forwards and backwards safely. Recognizing that mobility equipment is key to rehabilitation, in 2013 the first REX Rehab machines were shipped to beta sites internationally,” explains Little, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Rex Bionics.
There are two primary REX devices available; an adjustable REX Rehab for use in rehabilitation centers, and a streamlined, fit-for-purpose REX Personal made for each individual’s specific medical and physical requirements.
REX can be used by people with a complete spinal cord injury up to the C4/5 level and protects the shoulders from injury, thereby safeguarding independence. “With four double tethered leg straps, an upper harness and abdominal support, REX provides ample security. Specially designed cuffs hold the legs firmly, but without creating pressure points. REX is constructed from hospital grade materials, including hypoallergenic, pressure-relieving foam padding, which prevents pressure areas from forming,” he says.
It has a rechargeable, interchangeable battery, and REX Personal can be used to walk continuously for over two hours on one charge. Also, because REX is designed to be inherently stable, it doesn’t use any power when standing.
Betting big on Hong Kong
Based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the company estimates that more than 2,000 Hong Kong citizens live with a spinal cord injury. Rex Bionics and Deltason Medical, a distributor of rehabilitation equipment in Hong Kong and China, have signed a distribution agreement in which Deltason will exclusively represent REX in Hong Kong, both in neuro-rehabilitation clinics and in the personal use market.
Asia is a big market for the company. Little says, “Asia is an emerging market with wealthy pockets. People are willing to spend on healthcare and many countries in Asia are also attracting a lot of medical tourism. Hence, it presents a great opportunity for us.”
The company has attracted interest from India, Dubai, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. China is also a huge market for REX. “We are also open to strategic investments from Asia,” he concludes.
This post was originally published on e27.