We’ve previously discussed a number of technologies that are being developed to help improve the physical performance of human beings. Typically, they involve lightweight motion control components and mechanical systems that provide greater stamina and strength. The issue with many of these exoskeletons is the that they’re great for specific tasks, but can be kind of clunky and inhibit the wearer’s mobility.
That’s one of the reasons that Conor Walsh's team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University has been working on developing an alternative. Their exosuit uses soft textiles and wearable robotic devices that apply mechanical forces to critical joints of the body, including at the ankles and hips.
To a comic book geek like me, it’s a bit less like an Iron Man-inspired exoskeleton and more like a Blank Panther-derived suit.
Through an optimized mobile actuation system worn near the waist and integrated into a military rucksack, mechanical forces are transmitted via cables that are guided throughout the exoskeleton's soft components to ankle and hip joints. This allows the suit to add power to the ankles and hips when walking, running, or climbing. Additionally, sensors measure the power being produced by the individual and adjusts its support based on the individual’s stride and speed.
Options for the suit could include heroes like soldiers, firefighters, and rescue workers, as well as those suffering from neurodegenerative disorders and other mobility-related health challenges.