Raspberry Pi powered exoskeleton makes walking faster and easier

Perspective: Researchers at Stanford University have developed a Raspberry Pi-powered exoskeleton that could help people with disabilities get around more easily. The wearable is worn around the shin like a boot and is powered by a Raspberry Pi 4 which is responsible for controlling a host of sensors as well as a motor and motor driver.

Patrick Slade, who worked on the project as a graduate student, said they chose the Raspberry Pi because of its affordability and the fact that it can run multiple threads of code at the same time.

Slade added that writing in Python also simplifies the verification process.

The key to a great adaptive device is customization, and that’s where Stanford’s creation differs from others. The team has spent years using exoskeleton emulators to train their machine learning model, and the investment has paid off. It takes about an hour for the system to fully learn how a user walks before it can develop a custom template for assistance, but the benefits can be felt within the first 15 minutes of use.

On average, users can walk nine percent faster using 17 percent less energy. According to the researchers, this is equivalent to taking off a 30-pound backpack.

“Walking with exoskeletons, you literally feel like your gait has become more elastic,” said Ava Lakmazakheri, a graduate student who wore the exoskeleton during the tests.

results promising, but there is still a lot of work to be done. The current prototype is quite bulky and all the electronics are visible. A consumer-ready version would require a visual makeover to hide the nuts and bolts, and ideally the system could be scaled down a bit more. Still, it’s impressive considering that systems like this are usually tethered and therefore limited.

Researchers will need to find commercial partners to help bring the innovation to market. With any luck, boots could one day work alongside traditional mobility aids like walkers to keep people active longer.

Academic research paper on topicPersonalization of exoskeleton walking assistance in the real world”, published in the journal Nature.

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