A team of researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering of Harvard University recently announced they have come up with a new type of exosuit or “wearable robotics” that would actually minimize the energy needed by a human to physically move. Thanks to “a first-phase $2.9 million contract” from DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) the group of researchers has developed a prototype “smart wearable robotic suit” as part of what the DARPA Warrior Web program. Known as “the Soft Exosuit”, it can actually be put on like a pair of conventional pants.
The exosuit was designed with the specific intention of minimizing the energy needed for physical movement. The research team said the wearable exosuit could very well prove to be extremely helpful to military personnel who are navigating tough terrain.
Conor Walsh, Ph. D., assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering and lead researcher on the project admitted the concept of a “wearable robot” or an exosuit isn’t new. Their design approach, however, is undeniably new. He explained that traditional robotic technology was designed for industrial use.
Walsh and company approached the project from a new angle: wearable technology for people. He stated: “While the idea of a wearable robot is not new, our design approach certainly is. Soft wearable robotics is a fundamentally new technology. We’re trying to take an entirely new approach to how we design and fabricate wearable robots.”
Ishan Chatterjee, an electrical engineering student who helped with the engineering of motion sensors in the legs and feet of the suit, added: “We wanted to make sure we were not working against the body, but working with the body.”
“When you think about something you wear, you think of something that keeps you warm or something fashionable. But these textiles actually have a key function that’s critical to the robot’s operation,” Walsh concluded.
Over the upcoming 15 months, he and his co-workers will work on optimizing the exosuit. They also hope to increase the efficiency of the exosuit. Prototypes will be tested by the military this fall.
Exosuit Scores $2.9 Million Contract