American Elephants


How About Some Really Good News That Is NOT Political? by The Elephant's Child

A California robotics company called suitX has presented it’s Phoenix exoskeleton to the public. It makes it possible for paraplegics and those with mobility disorders to regain their ability to walk, which is a priceless blessing. It is not the first exoskeleton, which was developed in Israel, but it is the most affordable so far, at about the price of a new Cadillac.

SuitX is led by Dr. Homayoon Kazerooni, who is director of the Berkley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory and co-founder and chief scientist of Ekso Bionics. Dr. Kazerooni and his team are driven by a dream of developing low-cost consumer bionic products to improve the quality of life for the disabled. To achieve their goal of keeping the robotics as affordable as possible the team worked with biomechanics instead of the bulky robotics used in the other exoskeletons available so far. One of their prime goals is to help children affected by neurological conditions like cerebral palsy and spina bifida, during the brief time in development when they perfect their walking skills.

The current Phoenix totals around 28 pounds. It consists of modules made for a person’s hips, knees and feet — each can be independently removed and adjusted to the individual’s exact size. A back-mounted battery pack provides power for eight hours of intermittent use or  four hours of continuous use.The Phoenix can move a paralyzed person at a speed of 1.1 miles an hour, the company said.

Steven Sanchez was a former BMX dirt bike rider who became mostly paralyzed by a sports injury. He’s now one of the biggest proponents of the Phoenix. “It feels like you’re actually walking,”

The exoskeleton has silent carbon-fiber orthotics capable of being customized to its wearer. Attached to the orthotics are small motors that provide mobility to the hips and legs. Crutches provide upper body support and are integrated into the orthotics, allowing the wearer to control the movement of each leg with the touch of a button. A built-in back-mounted battery pack provides the wearer with 8 hours of intermittent or 4 hours of continual use.

Weighing around 27 pounds, the Phoenix is not the lightest exoskeleton on the market, but it is comparatively lighter than competing suits such as the more cumbersome 50 pound ReWalk.

While still costlier than a motorized wheelchair, the minimal design translates into a lower-cost exoskeleton; the Phoenix costs just $40,000 in a market where prices range from $70,000 to $100,000.

Dr. Kazerooni is more interested in cleverness. He says you can buy a motorcycle with all sorts of technology for $10,000, so he’s hoping to reduce the cost even more within two or three years— something robust and simple that walks, stops. sits and stands — hugely enabling.

Steven Sanchez tests the product monthly and demonstrates the product all over the world. He wore the Phoenix on a trip to the Vatican, and stood in line like anyone else — “wearing an “awesome robotic suit” and “no one cared.” For those who can only dream of walking, that is a very big deal indeed.



I Apologize! Isn’t That an Old Song? by The Elephant's Child

I’m sorry for the erratic blogging over the last week or so. Complications of life that you would not enjoy hearing about — boring, annoying, but not even mildly interesting. Here’s a little humor to brighten a Sunday morning:

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An Appropriate Cartoon by the Talented Michael Ramirez by The Elephant's Child

TOON12115FINAL.gif.cmsTo see more of Michael Ramirez’s caustic (but funny) work, go to Investors Business Daily every weekday.



This is ‘Wisdom’ Returned to Midway at Age 64, to Lay Another Egg. by The Elephant's Child

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This is a Laysan albatross who has returned once again to Midway Atoll, where she is expected to lay another egg.  What is notable about her is that she was first tagged in 1956 and has raised at least 36 chicks since then. Her name is Wisdom, and she is 64 years old. The oldest known tracked bird. More pictures at the link.

The nesting ground for the albatrosses is protected habitat. The birds typically lay an egg a year, spending six months rearing and feeding their young. They are giants in the air, with a seven-foot wingspan, that helps them forage far out to sea.

Kind of a neat story for a Monday morning.



Christmas is Coming: The Geese Are Getting Fat… by The Elephant's Child

A mysterious light switch allows unsuspecting New Yorkers to turn on over 50,000 Christmas lights. From Improv Everywhere:

For our latest mission, we placed a 7-foot-tall light switch in New York City’s Father Demo Square. When a random New Yorker flipped the switch, the entire square lit up with Christmas lights. In addition to lights on the trees, benches, and fences around the park, a mob of performers wearing lights wrapped around their clothes lit up as well. The performers were instructed to turn on their lights and freeze in place when the switch was flipped on.

(h/t: AmericanDigest)



A Smart Bandage Signals Infection by Turning Fluoresent Green by The Elephant's Child

smart.bandages.1x519From the MIT Technology Review: A smart bandage signals infection by turning a fluorescent color. Researchers have developed a new kind of wound dressing that could serve as an early-detection system for infections. This could not only save lives, but reduce the need for antibiotics.

Bacterial infection is a fairly common and potentially dangerous complication of wound healing, but a new “intelligent” dressing that turns fluorescent green to signal the onset of an infection could provide physicians a valuable early-detection system.

Researchers in the United Kingdom recently unveiled a prototype of the color-changing bandage, which contains a gel-like material infused with tiny capsules that release nontoxic fluorescent dye in response to contact with populations of bacteria that commonly cause wound infections.

Led by Toby Jenkins, a professor of biophysical chemistry at the University of Bath, the inventors of the new bandage, which has not yet been tested in humans, say it could be used to alert health-care professionals to an infection early enough to prevent the patient from getting sick. In some cases it may even be able help avoid the need for antibiotics, says Jenkins.

Battlefield wounds are often dirty, infection, gangrene all too often led to amputation or death. I’m re-reading my way through the Patrick O’Brien Aubrey/ Maturin series of 18th Century sea stories, and there are plenty of shipboard wounds, and amputations,  usually successful because Stephen Maturin was an excellent 18the century physician. But in the real world, it is a real problem. Our current military provides wonderful care, compared to their forebears. My family lost a young uncle on each side of the civil war to a battlefield wound and sepsis.

The article reminds us that caring for infected wounds costs billions of dollars annually. This is early on, but very promising.



A Comment on Today’s Culture: Historically Inaccurate, but Pointed. by The Elephant's Child

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