New Way to Optimize Exoskeletons Helps to Drastically Improve Their Efficiency

Exoskeletons that help people with mobility issues have been in development for quite some time now and some even been approved by the FDA for at-home use. Though there’s already a great deal of technology built into these types of devices, they remain clunky, imperfect, and produce a gait that resembles that of robots in old science fiction movies. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have been working to change this by monitoring how the exoskeleton impacts its user and adjusting different parameters to produce the most efficient walking style.

The team actually monitored the metabolic rate, via indirect calorimetry, of healthy subjects while they were wearing a powered ankle orthosis. The robotic brace would change when, how much, and how intensely it would power each step, while a number of body worn sensors would calculate the person’s metabolic rate. After about an hour of running through different modes and using the brace to run, walk, and carry a heavy object, the system improved its efficiency by an average of 24%. This is remarkably impressive, and while the study is limited to a single device in a small number of subjects, there’s great potential that this kind of personalized tuning can be translated to other exoskeletons.

Here’s a short video from the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

Study in Science: Human-in-the-loop optimization of exoskeleton assistance during walking…

(hat tip: Engadget)