New Zealand is famous for a few things. The all-conquering All Blacks rugby team, kiwis, glaciers and, of course, hobbits. It isn't exactly thought of as an epicentre of technology. Until now that is.
For New Zealand is the birthplace of a new exoskeleton that could revolutionise the way in which paraplegics are able to move around.
Rex, the robotic exoskeleton is able to take the full weight of person (one of its first users is Hayden Allen who is 193cm tall) and is controlled via a joystick and some controls on the arm rests.
Allan is very impressed with Rex. He said: "I'll never forget what it was like to see my feet walking under me the first time I used Rex. People say to me, 'look up when you're walking' but I just can't stop staring down at my feet moving".
Dr. Richard Roxburgh, medical adviser to the Muscular Dystrophy Association said:
"For many of my patients Rex represents the first time they've been able to stand up and walk for years. There are obvious immediate benefits in terms of mobility, improved social interaction and self-image.
"There are also likely to be major long term health and quality of life benefits through reducing the complications of being in a wheelchair all the time. I think that this will also enable people to stay well longer; this means that those who have conditions where disease modifying treatments are coming over the next five to ten years, will be in better shape when those treatments finally arrive".
The bad news is that it will retail at around £100,000.
£100,000 is a bit steep we have to admit, but when you consider that this machine will not only allow people to "walk", it will also make them look like Robocop then it's a bit of a bargain.
Rex is going to be available in New Zealand this year, and globally from 2011. For more info check out the Rex Bionics website.