As people grow older their muscles begin to deteriorate, resulting in a considerable loss in the amount mobility they once had. Although they can still maneuver by themselves, it causes significant strain on their bodies to walk extended distances without support. These difficulties also apply to people who have been victims of a stroke, have multiple sclerosis, or are weighed down with medical issues that partially impair their legs. Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have partnered with ReWalk Robotics to develop a new exoskeleton suit that gives individuals with restricted mobility the chance to walk freely again with minimal stress on their legs.
Beginning as an extensive research period, the team first studied the biomechanics of how people walk in order to fully understand the process behind each stride before constructing the exosuit. The team used their comprehensive data results to target the most efficient mechanical process to incorporate into the suit while using the least amount of material. The result was several small motors hidden in a foam fitted lightweight fabric which is worn similar to a harness, giving the user maximum flexibility and allowing the device to be discreet when worn.
Unlike previous bulky exoskeleton suits developed to give mobility back to those who have none, this outfit was designed to specifically to help people who have partial movement but need further assistance. Because of this, the exosuit is considerably lighter and more flexible that previous models, allowing the user to feel less restrained. An additional bonus is that the exosuit fabric is considerably cheaper than previous materials, thus reducing the price and making it much more affordable for the average consumer.
The exosuit operates through the use of powerful actuators tucked away in the belt, amplifying the user’s movements and increasing their stability. These actuators pull and release as the user walks to allow them to use less effort with each step, letting the machine do most of the work. This slight amount of assistance can be a large help to those with limited movement, helping them stay active in their daily lives.
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