Researchers at Harvard University have developed a powerful flexible exosuit which is lighter than rigid exoskeletons but still helps the wearer with heavy lifting.
A study published in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation says the exosuit reduces the amount of energy consumed during loaded walking by 7.3% on average.
The suit also reduces the work done by the hip, knee and ankle joints, without impacting step frequency or length.
The researchers used textiles to build their alternative to rigid exoskeletons, which are heavier and can interfere with the natural movement of the joints.
The suit has a waist belt, two thigh pieces and two calf straps, connected by cables to two motors mounted on a backpack.
Watch the suit in action:
The energy from the motors travels via the cables to the suit which transfers it to the wearer.
The suit assists the hip and ankle joints which together contribute about 80% of the power produced by leg joints during walking.
“Apart from assisting load carriers, we are exploring how the soft exosuit can be used to assist individuals with impaired movement, paving the way for the use of this technology in a wide range of people,” says researcher Conor Walsh.
The device could benefit soldiers, emergency service first responders or hikers, according to the researchers. It could also prove useful for those with physical impairments.
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