Paralyzed race car driver Sam Schmidt took his first steps in over two decades last month, thanks to an exoskeleton designed by Arrow Electronics. Schmidt, who has been paralyzed from his shoulders down since a racing accident in 2000, grew emotional as he walked around and gave full-body hugs.
Arrow Electronics’ exoskeleton functions by supporting Schmidt’s legs as he walks forwards and stands, while an individual helps him balance from behind. Schmidt’s story demonstrates that, while the device is still in a prototyping stage, exoskeletons such as these hold great potential to help paralyzed individuals. Engineers are already working to actualize improved versions of this technology.
Some of Arrow Electronics’ goals for the future are to make a device that does not require a supporting individual and to ensure that such a device would be entirely self-operable. While the difficulty of such an endeavor has been described as a mega-task, the future of exoskeletons looks bright. The ultimate function of an improved product would be to offer paralyzed individuals more personal agency and the freedom to walk about on their own.
Even while he was paralyzed, Schmidt never gave up hope. He continued to pursue his dream of racing, even driving a specially designed Corvette he could guide with movements of his head. He’s competed in numerous races and still dreams of walking around with his race team and family. Recently, thanks to the innovative exoskeleton, Schmidt was able to dance at his daughter’s wedding.
Image source: New Mobility