According to a research carried out in Germany, about 10% of lost days at work are because of lower back problems. Fraunhofer research team in collaboration with the industry partners is busy working on CareJack. It is an orthopedic prosthesis that has been incorporated with flexible and smart electronics which ensure that users who have to lift heavy weights don’t hurt themselves in the long run.
Usually an orthosis is based on an exoskeleton that is rigid and thereby reduces the necessary mobility required at workplace. CareJack on the other hand is flexible and lightweight, while also being able to store the kinetic energy of user and releasing it when needed for lifting or when support is required. This approach allows to get rid of the external power source.
The active vest can be worn on everyday clothing and also works to help user in maintaining optimal posture. The sensors in the vest ascertain movement patterns of the user and flash warning light when the user is moving in a form other than what is optimal. Such forms include walking with a bent back or lifting heavy loads while bending back. The vest calibrates itself for varying rigidity thus compensating for the movement. The user does, however, have an option to specify how much of support they require.
Fraunhofer is hopeful that the prototype vest will be completed this year and shall be entering production phase within 1-2 years. As far as application of CareJack go, there are hopes for it finding its way into military applications as well apart from the obvious work-related applications.