Researchers have developed a new exoskeleton "boot" that can help people walk faster. The boot, which looks like a cast with wires running up the back of the wearer's leg, can increase walking speed by up to 10 percent and save 17 percent in energy costs - as much as taking off a 10-kilogram backpack.
The system uses precisely timed electric motors that can transmit torque to the leg joint while walking. There were challenges in effectively developing this system: A person's walking speed varies greatly throughout the day, and each person's gait - the specific way they walk - is unique, so the robot can adapt and adjust to the user The support must be calculated on a wearer-specific basis.
A person's gait can be so unique that it could actually be used to identify someone.
Other difficulties arise when trying to adjust to how the person might change their behavior while wearing the boot - known as "human-in-the-loop" optimization.
Researchers from Stanford's Department of Mechanical Engineering collected physiological data as feedback to guide how the boot best helps, and added an adaptive controller that responds to changes in the way a person walks throughout the day.
In the future, the robotic boot could be adapted to help with other movements such as climbing stairs and navigating difficult terrain. The research was published in Nature.
Exoskeletons have been used in the past to perform amazing feats; a quadriplegic who had lost control of all four limbs was able to move again with the help of an exoskeleton controlled by his mind.
The experimental suit has the potential to improve patients' autonomy and quality of life, as the man could walk, play computer games and more. The patient, a 30-year-old known only as Thibault, described it as "the first man on the moon."
Source: Scientists build futuristic exoskeleton that lets people run faster | The Latest News (10/17/2022)