Researchers at Chung-Ang University in South Korea have created an ultralight exosuit designed to help runners cover short distances more quickly. Exoskeleton technology has been evolving for some time, with applications ranging from assisting in heavy lifting to aiding people with physical disabilities. However, exosuits specifically designed to enhance running speed have been relatively rare.
“Exceeding the limits of the human body is a fundamental human desire,” Junyoong Moon wrote in a recently published study. “Our results will serve as a starting point for research focused on exceeding the limits of human capabilities through wearable robots.”
What sets this exosuit apart is its minimalist design. Weighing just 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds), it can improve an average person’s 200-meter sprint time by nearly one second. This significant speed boost is achieved through a simple yet innovative mechanism.
The exosuit includes a backpack housing a power pack that supplies energy to cables extending to the wearer’s hips and thighs. As the wearer takes a step, the connected cable tightens, propelling the trailing leg forward more rapidly than it would move naturally. Additionally, the exosuit features sensors and a computer that analyze the wearer’s gait and synchronize the suit with their steps.
To test the effectiveness of the exosuit, researchers had amateur runners wear it for 200-meter runs, followed by the same distance without the suit. The data showed that the exosuit reduced their sprint time by 0.97 seconds, a significant improvement. This innovation is particularly promising for sprinters looking to enhance their performance.
Notably, the researchers managed to reduce the exosuit’s weight from its original 4.4 kilograms to the final 2.5 kilograms without sacrificing performance. This reduction in weight demonstrates a commitment to making the technology more practical and accessible for users.
While this ultralight exosuit may not yet be mainstream, it showcases a potential breakthrough in wearable technology for enhancing running speed. As it continues to be refined and tested, its applications could extend to professional sprinters and various athletic endeavors. This innovation underscores the potential of exoskeleton technology to improve physical performance and could find use in multiple fields beyond running.