The device shown in the medical exoskeleton picture above is the ReWalk Medical Powered Exoskeleton. The device uses DC motors at the joints, rechargeable batteries, an array of sensors and a computer-based control system to help paraplegics walk again.
There are some interesting sfnal predecessors for this idea. The earliest reference to the basic idea that I know of is the rigid metallic clothing that Edmund Hamilton wrote about in his 1932 story A Conquest of Two Worlds.
[The] man was standing on two corrugated-soled titanium footplates. From the outer edge of each rose a narrow titanium T-beam that followed the line of his leg, with a joint (locked now) at the knee, up to another joint with a titanium pelvic girdle and shallow belly support. From the back of this girdle a T-spine rose to support a shoulder yoke and rib cage, all of the same metal. The rib cage was artistically slotted to save weight, so that curving strips followed the line of each of his very prominent ribs.
(Read more about the titanium exoskeleton)
More recently, the character of Melora Pazlar was initially to be Deep Space 9's science officer because the producers liked the idea of a character who came from a low-gravity environment, but this was changed to the Trill Jadzia Dax, as it would lead to fewer on-set logistical complications.
(Medical exoskeleton from Deep Space 9)
Read more at the Daily Mail; thanks to both Moira and Winchell Chung for writing in with this one.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/28/2008)