Wonderful Engineering

New Robotic Shorts By Harvard Make It Easy For You To Walk Or Run

A team of Harvard researchers at the university’s Wyss Institute have come up with an exosuit in the shape of a pair of robotic shorts. The soft exosuit enables users to walk and run easily by making use of a cable actuation system.

Benjamin Boettner of the Wyss Institute writes, ‘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.’ To put it simply, this means that the exosuit allows users to move their muscles in the hip and thigh area for making it easier to walk or run.

The exosuit basically reduces the metabolic cost of walking by 9% and by 4% of running. The metabolic cost is the amount of oxygen that we use up while breathing. A reduction in metabolic cost results in the user feeling lighter and reportedly, runners feel 12.6 pounds lighter while walkers feel 16.3 pounds lighter.

Dr. Conor Walsh of the Wyss Institute led the study and said, ‘While the metabolic reductions we found are modest, our study demonstrates that it is possible to have a portable wearable robot assist more than just a single activity, helping to pave the way for these systems to become ubiquitous in our lives. 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.’

The exosuit can be worn like shorts and the microprocessor housed within it can determine if the user is running or walking. It then works accordingly with our glute muscles. Scientists are now focused on creating the next generation of exosuit to be quieter, lighter, and smaller thus making them ideal for ‘real-world applications.’