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Exoskeletons May Help you Stay Mobile in your Old Age

July 18
13:33 2016

Getting older and wiser is inevitable. But, what if mechanical technology would help you stay mobile in your golden years? Doesn’t this notion get you enthusiastic­ about the future­?

Well, the Walking Assist Clutch exoskeleton is being developed to help the elderly stay walking with extra structure, protection and strength. The clutch is worn around the ankles causing the walker to expend 7% less energy. This correlates to taking off a 10-pound backpack.

“Soon, we will have exoskeletons that improve mobility for older people,” said Steve Collins, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University to nextavenue.org.

These types of products are already being developed to aid the seriously disabled and the military. Roboticists have created exoskeletons for wheelchair-bound individuals so they can stand and even move around. And the military is experimenting with soldiers wearing exoskeletons as heavy armor protection (like Ironman.)

Exoskeleton technology by BAE Systems is also being used on an experimental level in the workplace. Lightweight exoskeleton frames are making super heavy tools feel weightless for workers. Widespread usage of the technology would boost productivity and reduce the risk of injury, specifically it “minimizes pressure on the wearer’s lower back, hips, knees and ankles while improving posture and reducing the risk of injury,” according to a National Center for Manufacturing Sciences evaluation. This means industrial blue-collar workers would experience less physically demanding days of work and wouldn’t be forced to retire as early.

So why is this taking so long to become mainstream? “University of Arizona neuroscientist and roboticist Charles Higgins says when he saw the dystopian movie Elysium, where Matt Damon wore a full-body, highly-flexible exoskeleton giving him superhuman strength, “I wondered, ‘Where is the power supply?’ Our power technology isn’t there to do what you see in the movies. A full exoskeleton is still in the fantasy stage,” writes nextavenue.org.

But, the prosaic versions like the clutch exoskeleton will be more accessible and likely available in the near future. Not to mention, more of the population would benefit from the more practical exoskeletons.

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Kerri Adams

Kerri Adams

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