Researchers from Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard developed a wearable soft exosuit that helps users to save energy and walk over difficult terrain
A research led by Conor Walsh at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has been focusing on developing soft wearable robotic devices. These devices support mobility by applying mechanical forces to critical joints of the body. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded the research as the technology has potential for relieving overburdened solders in the field.
Now the team developed its latest generation of a mobile multi-joint exosuit with an automatic tuning method to customize its assistance based on responses from an individual’s body. Moreover, the upgraded exosuit demonstrated significant energy savings. The multi-joint soft exosuit comprises textile apparel components that can be worn at the waist, thighs, and calves. An optimized mobile actuation system fitted near the waist is integrated into a military rucksack. The system assists to guide the mechanical forces that are transmitted via cables to the exosuit’s soft components to ankle and hip joints. This exosuit therefore adds power to the ankles and hips to assist with leg movements during the walking cycle.
The exosuit was reported in the proceedings of the 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). In the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation (JNER) study, the researchers presented a suitable new tuning method. The method uses exosuit sensors to optimize the positive power delivered at the ankle joints. The system measures the power as a wearer begins walking and gradually adjusts controller parameters to maximize the exosuit’s effects based on the wearer’s individual gait mechanics. The method can be applied as a proxy measure for elaborate energy measurements. The research was published in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation on July 13, 2018.