Paralyzed for the past 20 years, former Israeli paratrooper Radi Kaiof now walks down the street with a dim mechanical hum. That is the sound of an electronic exoskeleton moving the 41-year-old's legs and propelling him forward - with a proud expression on his face - as passersby stare in surprise.
The device, called ReWalk, is the brainchild of engineer Amit Goffer, founder of Argo Medical Technologies, a small Israeli high-tech company. Something of a mix between the exoskeleton of a crustacean and the suit worn by comic hero Iron Man, ReWalk helps paraplegics - people paralyzed below the waist - to stand, walk and climb stairs.
Goffer himself was paralyzed in an accident in 1997 but he cannot use his own invention because he does not have full function of his arms. The system, which requires crutches to help with balance, consists of motorized leg supports, body sensors and a back pack containing a computerized control box and rechargeable batteries. The user picks a setting with a remote control wrist band - stand, sit, walk, descend or climb - and then leans forward, activating the body sensors and setting the robotic legs in motion.