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Man and machine - fluid boundaries?

Exoskeletons form a symbiosis of man and machine. The "skeletons" attached to the outside of the body can be used in a variety of ways. But what is the specific potential?

Exoskeletons allow people to move affected body parts despite motor impairments.
Exoskeletons allow people to move affected body parts despite motor impairments.(© chudakov2 - Getty Images Pro via Canva.com)

The connection between man and machine through exoskeletons marks a technological milestone - exoskeletons are a first step on the way to this development. The biomechanical structures are attached to the human body as "external skeletons" and in this way support, reinforce or enable different movements.

New standards of human performance?

Exoskeletons can thus overcome physical limitations. They combine the human anatomy with the technical advances of robotics and can extend the physical capabilities of the human body. Using precise sensors and motors, exoskeletons recognize and understand the wearer's movements in order to amplify or correct them. This technology is used in medical, industrial and military applications.

In medicine, exoskeletons support patients during rehabilitation after injuries or strokes, for example, by promoting targeted movements. In industrial applications, they enable workers to lift heavy loads, increasing efficiency and minimizing the risk of injury. In a military context, exoskeletons can provide soldiers with additional strength and endurance.

A distinction is made between active and passive exoskeletons. The main difference lies in the way in which the device supports the person. Active exoskeletons use a motor and work by means of compressed air. Passive exoskeletons, on the other hand, use mechanical components such as springs or elastic straps for support. As a result, active exoskeletons offer people more support, but are also heavier. This not only makes them bulkier, but can also be perceived as a burden if worn for long periods of time.

Extra skeleton vs. extra muscles

The company Myoswiss presented a new approach to exoskeletons at this year's Medica medical trade fair in Düsseldorf. The so-called Myosuit takes up the idea of exoskeletons, but follows a different vision. Unlike a rigid exoskeleton, it is worn like a pair of dungarees and fits like an extra layer of muscles.

It works like an active orthosis that enables people with mobility restrictions in their legs to train strength, endurance and balance activities. The Myosuit supports the movements initiated by the user by recognizing weak muscle signals and activating individual support and strength in the hip area and legs through orthotic movement. The suit is handy and lightweight and can be used both in physiotherapy and in everyday life.

Tom Illauer

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