Exoskeleton suits: a new device for better walking and running

In some rehabilitation centers and laboratories, exoskeletons and lower body suits are already used for improve walking ability in stroke...


In some rehabilitation centers and laboratories, exoskeletons and lower body suits are already used for improve walking ability in stroke patients, the age and young people with cerebral palsy or other disabilities. But perhaps the most tantalizing and upsetting science of today is about exoskeletons for the rest of us, including young and healthy people. In this area of ​​research, scientists are developing exoskeletons to reduce the energy costs of running and walking, making these activities less tiring, more physiologically efficient, and perhaps more enjoyable.

So far, the first results look promising. In a series of studies carried out last year at Stanford University’s Biomechatronics Lab (and funded in part by Nike, Inc.), researchers found that students could run about 15% more efficiently than normal on a treadmill when wearing a customizable prototype version of a lower exoskeleton. These exoskeletons feature a lightweight motorized frame attached around runners’ shins and ankles and a carbon fiber bar inserted into the sole of their shoes. Together, these elements reduce the amount of force that runners’ leg muscles must produce to propel them forward. On real-world paths and trails, the devices could allow us to run at least 10% faster than on our own, the study’s authors say.

A slightly modified device also increased the speed of young people while walking, according to a separate experiment from the Stanford laboratory, published in April. In this study, students walked about 40% faster, on average, when wearing a prototype motorized exoskeleton, while incinerating about 2% less energy.

In essence, the exoskeleton technology could be seen as “analogous to electric bikes,” but for the stride, not for pedaling, said Steven Collins, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford and lead author of the new studies. By reducing the effort required to move, motorized machines could theoretically encourage us to move more, perhaps commute on foot, drag or overtake naturally faster spouses or friends, and achieve higher speeds. places that might otherwise seem terribly hilly or distant.

They could even allow our muscles to power our cell phones, according to one of the most surprising new studies on the exoskeleton. In this experiment, published in May in Science, Healthy, young volunteers from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., carried an exoskeleton that included a backpack containing a small generator, which was attached to cables running down to their ankles.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Exoskeleton suits: a new device for better walking and running
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