Lockheed Martin released the FORTIS Knee-Stress Relief Device (K-SRD) earlier this year, the device being was built off of the company's line of exoskeletons which are primarily focused on industrial and military applications. The K-SRD was built for the military, to make it easier for soldiers to carry heavy loads without quickly fatiguing. A new study out of the University of Michigan Human Neuromechanics Lab proves that the K-SRD does just that.
The study took four trained volunteers, strapped a 40-pound backpack to them, and had them walk at various speeds on a treadmill that was set at a 15-degree incline. The weight was considerably less than the 60 to 100 pounds of gear that soldiers carried in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it worked for the study.
The researchers wanted to determine whether or not the K-SRD decreased the "cost of transport," a measurement for the amount of energy consumed while walking, be it on a straightaway or uphill. The study found that the exoskeleton significantly reduced the amount of energy that each participant expended.
The K-SRD uses Dermoskeleton technology that Lockheed licensed from Canadian company B-TEMIA. Dermoskeleton is a human-machine interface that gives you a little boost by adding biomechanical energy at your joints to counteract stress on the lower back and legs.
Next, the researchers are moving into urban scenarios, to test how the K-SRD may help first responders, particularly when they are climbing stairs. After all, a firefighter is carrying about 45 pounds on average, which is a little closer to the test case.
The study comes about nine months after a National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) report that found that industrial exoskeletons also improve industrial productivity and help prevent work injuries. Now that we know they work, it’s just a matter of getting them into the right hands, or legs for that matter.