Robotic exoskeleton adapts to wearers to help them walk faster

The data that the boot generates is fed into a machine learning model, which in turn adjusts the device to personalize its support, applying force to the ankle to replace some calf function and helping the wearer push off the ground while doing so. make a step. This allows you to walk faster and with less effort. It only takes an hour for the model to start personalizing how the device assists the user, and because it constantly learns from sensor data, the device can adapt over time as the user’s gait changes.

The team found that the device resulted in a 9% increase in walking speed and a 17% reduction in energy expenditure when walking naturally compared to walking in normal shoes. Their findings are described in an article in Nature Today. When tested on a treadmill, compared to other similar devices, the exoskeleton provides about half the force. The researchers compared the energy savings and speed gains to “taking off a 30-pound backpack.”

While supportive exoskeletons have been around for many years, they are difficult to tailor to the individual user as they are often large and unwieldy. Their success is largely limited to treadmills inside laboratories, and they are expensive. The Stanford team’s exoskeleton is much smaller than others on the market and, crucially, easier to transport.

The researchers claim that the project demonstrates for the first time the ability of an exoskeleton to save human energy in real conditions. They hope it can help older people with limited mobility or people with muscle problems move around more freely.

The team must eventually bring the product to the mass market, says Caspar Altofer, head of the Center for Advanced Robotics at Queen Mary University of London, who was not involved in the study.

“It would be very helpful for those who may not be as strong anymore and want to go a little further,” he says.

The authors of the report are starting research aimed at helping the elderly, and they believe that the prototype device can be turned into a commercial product that will ideally help people in their daily activities.

“We hope it will be a bit like e-bikes,” says Patrick Slade, who worked on the exoskeleton in graduate school. “He doesn’t do all the work for you, but he gets to a level of effort that people are comfortable with.”

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