s163109100722621orig

A smart exoskeleton can keep the elderly safe

A team of Italian and Swiss researchers has developed a prototype exoskeleton that can prevent elderly people from falling. The device is wearable from the waist down and made of carbon fiber braces. These can be easily adjusted to the wearer by tightening a few nuts and bolts. 

Hillary Sanctuary / EPFL

A prototype of the exoskeleton at a rehabilitation center in Florence, Italy. 

Once the exoskeleton is fitted, it must first learn the specific walking patterns of the user, known as gait. The exoskeleton then uses an algorithm to detect deviations from the user's regular movement and recognize the onset of a fall.

To simulate a fall, researchers had 69-year-old volunteer, Fulvio Bertelli, walk on a treadmill designed to unexpectedly slide out from under him and make him lose his balance. When this happened, motors fitted to the exoskeleton pushed down on both of Bertelli's thighs to re-stabilized him. 

EPFL

Motors resting on the wearer's hips push down on the user's thighs to re-stabilize them. 

"Our study revealed that a wearable robotic platform can effectively interact with humans during reactive motor responses, such as accidental slipping," said Vito Monaco, an expert in locomotion biometrics. "These results open new perspectives for researchers who are expected to develop robotic platforms for enhancing human capabilities all day long.” 

Researchers say the next step is to create an exoskeleton that is more discrete and portable so that is can be used in real-life environments. The idea is that the exoskeleton can also be used by people who are physically impaired and by individuals suffering from neurological disorders. The results of the study are published in Scientific Reports.

IDG Insider

PREVIOUS ARTICLE

« How to make Fully Homomorphic Encryption "practical and usable"

NEXT ARTICLE

WannaCry attacks are only the beginning »
author_image
IDG News Service

The IDG News Service is the world's leading daily source of global IT news, commentary and editorial resources. The News Service distributes content to IDG's more than 300 IT publications in more than 60 countries.

  • Mail

Poll

Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?