May has been a big month for personal robotics. Hyundai made titanic superpowered “Iron Man” exoskeletons, and now Harvard’s Wyss Institute announced that it’s teaming up with ReWalk, a robotics company, to make a soft exoskeleton for people suffering from lower body problems.
The target market for this includes seniors, people who’ve suffered from strokes, and people with multiple sclerosis. So keep tabs on your parents and grandparents: they could be cyborgs one day.
The suit works a little like an image stabilizer in a camera.
There are some actuators in the belt that detect shaky movements. The suit then stabilizes those movements in real-time, reducing the stress and fatigue from the patient attempting to rebalance themselves.
“There is a great need in the health care system for lightweight, lower-cost wearable exoskeleton designs to support stroke patients, individuals diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and senior citizens who require mechanical mobility assistance,” said Larry Jasinski, CEO of ReWalk in a statement.
If the exoskeleton above looks familiar to you, it’s because it’s not a completely new design. The Wyss Institute has been working on exoskeletons for around two years. The team even received $2.9 million in funding from DARPA, the US government’s futuristic technology arm, to develop the suit so that soldiers on the field would suffer less from muscle cramps.
The researchers hope eventually the suit will mimic natural skin to the point where you can pretty much slip it on before you put actual clothes on. In the video above, though, you’ll see that the robotic suit is more in the middle of the road between being the clunky power-walking suits Hyundai made and actual clothes.
In the past few years, engineers have been making strides toward building robotic walking suits that would give paralysed patients the ability to move again. This obsession with restoring limb function has led to things like mind-controlled arms and printable hands, among many other life-changing advances in prosthetics.
Soon enough, these people won’t have to worry about looking like robots — it will just be like putting on a second skin.