Exoskeleton Improves Walking and Running Performance

Robotic clothing

A new "exorroupa" - or a soft robotic exoskeleton - can assist with walking and running, providing significant energy savings in terms of metabolic activity.

Most importantly, robotic clothing allows a net gain of energy in both modalities.

"Robotic exoskeletons tend to be bulky and heavy; and while walking experiences have shown promising results, the energy spent running with the additional weight of the device outweighs the benefits of robotic assistance," said Professor Giuk Lee of the University. Chung-Ang in South Korea.

The problem is that walking and running have a fundamentally different biomechanics, which makes it challenging to create devices that assist both types of gait.

To address this challenge, the Korean team took two approaches. The first was to manufacture the fabric mainly out of cloth, including the belt and the fastening wraps, which allowed to lower the weight of the entire device to only 5 kg. The second was to create a mechanism that allows the assistance mode to be automatically switched between walking and running to achieve maximum assistance efficiency.

An algorithm analyzes data collected by exoskeleton sensors and classifies gait (walking or running), providing feedback to the device and adjusting the assist mode. Treadmill and outdoor testing revealed that the algorithm was able to correctly identify gait more than 99.98% of the time.

Dressing Robot Assist

The exoskeleton's assistance reduced the energy cost of walking at a speed of 1.5 meters per second (4.8 km per hour) by 9.3%, equivalent to losing 7.4 kg. Energy savings during the race (speed of 2.5 meters per second or 9 km per hour) reached 4%, equivalent to a weight loss of 5.7 kg.

"Although changes in metabolic rate are relatively modest, they are of a magnitude similar to those proven to be sufficient to improve maximal walking and running performance. Therefore, we believe these energy savings could result in proportional increases in maximal performance, for example. , on an outdoor race course, "said Professor Lee.

The robotic suit is designed with people with mobility restrictions in mind, particularly those with limited knee function or above-knee amputees. But it can also be used to assist people without physical disabilities.

"We hope this 'dressing robot' will have many uses, such as aiding rehabilitation training for elderly patients and improving the work efficiency of soldiers or firefighters. In the long run, we imagine this exaggeration hanging in the closet all the time, as well as the clothes we wear everyday, "concludes Lee.


Article: Reducing the metabolic rate of walking and running with a versatile, portable exosuit
Authors: Jinsoo Kim, Giuk Lee, Roman Heimgartner, Dheepak Arumukhom Revi, Nikos Karavas, Ignacio Galiana, Wing Eckert-Erdheim, Patrick Murphy, David Perry, Nicolas Menard, Kim Choe Dabin, Philippe Malcolm, Conor J. Walsh
Magazine: Science
Vol .: 365, Issue 6454, p. 668-672
DOI: 10.1126 / science.aav7536

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