Best Local Innovator

Berkeley Bionics

Any lover of science-fiction movies will remember Aliens, the frightening 1986 movie about bug-like creatures who overrun a deep-space colony by infesting the colonists and the subsequent battle between corporate space marines led by Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). There’s this scene at the end where Ripley uses a powered exoskeleton (a device worn by a person) to fight the alien queen. Awesome! Anyway, that’s the scene that comes to mind after reading about the work going on at Berkeley Bionics. The company, founded in 2005, created the world’s first exoskeleton brought to market — the BLEEK (Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton) — allowing a user to carry up to 75 pounds. Recent exoskeletons developed for the military allow the user to carry up to 200 pounds and operate on any type of terrain or slope. The Berkeley company has also expanded to medical work, creating the eLEGS, an exoskeleton for wheelchair-bound patients that allows them to walk. Twenty-five years after Aliens, science fiction looks a bit more real … alien queen excluded (thankfully).

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