Business Insider Edition

These robotic shorts developed by Harvard scientists are designed to help you feel up to 5kg lighter while running

Rebecca Aydin , Business Insider US
 Aug 24, 2019, 03:48 PM
The "exosuit" looks like a pair of robotic shorts.
Wyss Institute at Harvard University
  • This Harvard-developed hip "exosuit" is the first of its kind to assist both walking and running.
  • The exosuit looks like a pair of robotic shorts. It tugs at the wearer's legs, reducing the amount of oxygen used up while breathing.
  • This makes the wearer feel lighter while running or walking - 12.6 pounds (5.7kg) lighter for runners, and 16.3 pounds (7.3 kg) lighter for walkers, according to the researchers.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.

Harvard researchers at the university's Wyss Institute have developed a hip "exosuit," and it looks like a pair of robotic shorts, as first reported by The Verge.

The soft exosuit makes walking and running easier through something called a cable actuation system: "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," Benjamin Boettner of the Wyss Institute writes.

In plain English, that means that the suit helps move the muscles in your hip and thigh area to make it easier to run and walk.

The exosuit reduces metabolic cost - or how much oxygen we use up while breathing - by 4% for running and 9% for walking. A reduction in metabolic cost makes the wearer feel lighter - 12.6 pounds (5.7kg) lighter for runners, and 16.3 pounds (7.3kg) lighter for walkers.

"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," said Dr. Conor Walsh of the Wyss Institute, who led the study.

"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," Walsh continued.

Check out the Harvard Wyss Institute's breakdown of its newest exosuit:

The hip exosuit is a wearable — it fits on like a pair of shorts.

Wyss Institute at Harvard University/Vimeo

The video explains that while walking, our centre of mass swings like an inverted pendulum.

Wyss Institute at Harvard University/Vimeo

Whereas for running, our centre of mass moves more like a spring.

Wyss Institute at Harvard University/Vimeo

The exosuit's micro-processor determines whether you're walking or running, then it works with your glute muscles.

Wyss Institute at Harvard University/Vimeo

Researchers found that the exosuit reduced the energy needed for running, and for walking on an incline or level-ground.

Wyss Institute at Harvard University/Vimeo

Though the exosuit allows for natural movement, scientists are designing the next generation of exosuits to be quieter, lighter, and smaller for "real-world applications."

Wyss Institute at Harvard University/Vimeo

Check out the full video here:

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