Tech Tuesday – Could Robotic Exoskeletons One Day Help You Stay Mobile?
Staying on top of advances in technology can seem like a daunting task for older adults. Things change so fast! And many entertainment focused games and apps often don’t offer much to interest us anyway. But on Tech Tuesdays we here at Busier Now get excited when we find stories about new things that have the potential to make a positive impact on our lives. For instance….
We all have times when we could use a little extra support. Often it’s an emotional boost to help us face a tough time in our lives. But sometimes a bit of actual physical support would come in handy. Today we look at devices called exoskeletons which are being developed to help people through rehabilitation, or to continue to perform tasks that are becoming difficult due to aging. The first article gives a bit of the history of the devices and shows some of the different ones being developed today.
Robotic Exoskeleton History and Overview from Smashing Robotics
Helping people with disabilities to regain control over their limbs, provide increased mobility for the elderly or augment capabilities of workers performing heavy labor, these are only a few examples where exoskeleton suits can provide significant benefits for our health and safety.
The idea behind exoskeletons can be traced back to 1890 when Nicholas Yagn created the first suit of this type, actuating the various components with energy stored in gas bags. This device was used by the Russian engineer to walk, jump and run in a form similar to suits nowadays. The modern version of today’s exoskeletons was designed and built in the 1960s by General Electric and the United States Military. The suit was powered by hydraulic systems and electricity with a maximum loading weight of 110 kg (250 lbs). Named Hardiman, the exoskeleton had a weight rate of 1 to 11 – an user which lifts 11 kg feels the weight of 1 kg.
Since then, when exoframes were designed to be used solely in military applications, the technology went through a lot of improvement so latest projects have a futuristic design, are comfortable to wear and can sense even the tiniest body movements. With few exceptions exoskeleton suits and devices featured in this article are in use in various medical and research institutions, some models being even available for consumers. Let’s take a look. read more at smashingrobotics.com
Here’s a more in depth look at the HAL, which is one of the more successfully marketed devices.
HAL Robot Suit Receives Approval For Worldwide Rollout – Business Insider
A robot suit that can help the elderly or disabled get around was given its global safety certificate in Japan on Wednesday, paving the way for its worldwide rollout.
The Hybrid Assistive Limb, or HAL, is a power-assisted pair of legs developed by Japanese robot-maker Cyberdyne, which has also developed similar robot arms.
A quality assurance body issued the certificate based on a draft version of an international safety standard for personal robots that is expected to be approved later this year, the ministry for the economy, trade and industry said.
The metal-and-plastic exoskeleton has become the first nursing-care robot certified under the draft standard, a ministry official said. read more at businessinsider.com
And finally, an article about an exciting variation on the theme that needs no external power source – a potential game changer!
Self-powered Exoskeleton Could Help Users Walk or Run!
Assistive exoskeletons are a bit like electric bikes – they do indeed give users a power boost, but part of that boost is needed just to move the extra weight along. Japanese researchers at Hiroshima University and Daiya Industry Co., however, have created a minimalist exoskeleton that does away with heavy batteries and motors. Instead, their Unplugged Powered Suit (UPS) harnesses the wearer’s own weight.
The UPS consists of a pump located under the sole of the user’s foot, an air hose that runs up the leg from that pump, and what’s known as a Pneumatic Gel Muscle (PGM). read more at gizmag.com
So, what do you think? Ready to go out and get yourself a new exoskeleton to help you get around or lift things? Feel free to leave a comment below!