After unveiling the world's first robotic legs last year, Auckland based company Rex Bionics has made its first sale to Dave MacCalman, a New Zealand Paralympian.
The custom-fitted robotic exoskeleton has allowed Dave MacCalman, who sustained a spinal cord injury diving into a river while in the United States on a basketball scholarship, to take his first steps in more than 30 years.
"It is hard to describe what it has been like to be back on my feet again. I'm six-foot-four so it's been amazing to experience life from that height again. I'm looking forward to taking my Rex home and being able to stand around and socialize with family and friends," says Dave MacCalman.
The ex-Wellington basketball rep and Brisbane Bullets player enjoyed a successful basketball coaching career before deciding to become an elite sportsman again. Dave MacCalman broke a number of world records during his athletic career and represented New Zealand at four Paralympics and two World Athletic Championships, wining four Gold and four Silver medals. Dave captained the 1992 New Zealand Paralympic team to Barcelona and holds the current World Record for quadriplegic pentathlon. He became a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2000 for his services to disability sport.
Dave got in touch with Rex Bionics after seeing Rex on the news last year and was invited to trial the device.
"I was a little bit apprehensive getting into the Rex for the first time. The first few steps required intense concentration, but it was truly exhilarating and I was buzzing at the end of the first session," says Dave.
"It's like starting out in a wheelchair; you need to find out the limits of the device so that you can use it safely. I'm known to push my limits and I intend to use my Rex to its full potential."
Dave has now done hours of training familiarizing himself with the machine. He will be required to do a few more hours of training before he gets to take his Rex home with him, but expects to be walking around his house, with the help of Rex, in a few weeks.
"We believe this is the first time in the world a robotic exoskeleton has been sold to a consumer. We are delighted to have made our first sale to such an incredible New Zealander," says Jenny Morel, CEO of Rex Bionics.
"The team has put in a significant amount of work since the launch, getting the product market-ready, fine tuning and completing testing. Now we can't wait to see how Dave integrates Rex into his social, work and home activities."
Along with increased mobility, Dave believes the Rex will also improve his health and wellness through the movement and weight bearing it permits in his legs.
Speaking in support of the Rex Bionics invention Dr Cynthia Bennett, Clinical Head of Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit, says there are significant health and wellness benefits for Rex users.
"The obvious, immediate benefits of Rex include improved social interaction and standing mobility with access to objects above a seated level. In addition, numerous long term health and wellness benefits will occur by reducing the time spent sitting in a wheelchair."
Each Rex is built onsite at the Rex Bionics' Auckland plant. Rex has been designed to be practical, stable, safe, simple to use and sufficiently powered for a typical day of use thanks to a long-life rechargeable battery.
Rex Bionics Limited is an Auckland based company that was started to develop a robotic exoskeleton that would enable people in wheelchairs to walk. Rex Bionics is committed to providing practical solutions to the every-day barriers encountered by people with mobility impairments. Rex has been developed with the support of TechNZ and venture capital company, No 8 Ventures. More about Rex Bionics is available on the company's website, www.rexbionics.com/Rex-Bionics.aspx