Researchers at Harvard University have developed an “exosuit” that makes running and walking much easier.
This exosuit is essentially a pair of lightweight robotic shorts that make you feel about 7.3 kgs lighter while walking and 5.7 kgs lighter while running. It makes use of something called a cable actuation system.
The actuation cables apply a tensile force between the waist belt and thigh wraps to generate an external extension torque at the hip joint that works in concert with the gluteal muscles.
The suit works by connecting motors worn on the lower back to the wearer’s thighs through actuation cables. By applying force to these cables, the suit helps the wearer move their thighs and glute muscles, effectively reducing the metabolic cost of running and walking by 9.3% and 4% respectively.
It can switch between walking and running seamlessly. The whole suit itself weighs around 5kg, but the research team is already developing an even lighter version. It is powered by a waist bound battery which can help cover distances of up to 8 kilometers.
Of course, the exosuit is not without limitations. The apparatus you have to wear makes the suit feel really bulky and limits the user’s ability to carry around a full-sized backpack. The suit is also limited to the walking style of men as it is difficult to tailor exoskeletons of individual body types. However, a version for women is also under development.
As well as helping those in need to cover large distances on foot, the researchers hope that the exosuit will one day be able to help disabled people with walking restrictions.
The research team’s study lead, Conor Walsh said:
It is very satisfying to see how far our approach has come and we are excited to continue to apply it to a range of applications, including assisting those with gait impairments, industry workers at risk of injury performing physically strenuous tasks, or recreational weekend warriors.
You can check out the full video below.