Robotic Exoskeleton Takes the Effort Out of Walking

April
2018

Walking is a breeze with a new robotic exoskeleton that automatically adjusts to its wearer.

The suit takes repeated metabolic measurements and modifies its assistance to minimize the energy expended by the person wearing it. After about 20 min of this getting-to-know-you process, the exoskeleton was able to reduce the energy used by its wearers by 17.4%, on average.

The flexible suit is a hip harness that goes around the waist and extends partway down the thighs. It gives the muscles an assist with extension. Originally funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the exosuit could be used to help military service members walk longer distances without fatigue, says Ye Ding, a research assistant at Harvard Univ.’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

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A tethered actuation system (1) is connected to braided cables (2) that transmit force from actuators to the soft exosuit (3). Sensor wires in the cables transmit electronic signals to a real-time target computer (4). A...

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