A wearable robot, disguised as pants, provides super-powers
Slip into these pants and you can carry a heavier load, move faster, expend less energy, and will reduce the strain on your tendons and muscles.
The pants are technically an “exoskeleton” with built-in artificial intelligence, a fully “wearable robot.” Robo-Pants: Wearable technology - on steroids, and lighter, smaller and more comfortable than other exoskeletal systems.
As published this week in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, the robo-pants, developed at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, have a waist belt, two thigh pieces, and two calf straps.
Using cables attached to a motor hidden in a backpack, the pants monitor the user's gait and provide assistance to various body parts.
Scientists measured "a significant metabolic power reduction" while wearing the robo-pants – and, the users' hips, knees, and ankles showed "significantly less strain" while the robot pants were used.
Funding for the project has been provided by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Aside from the obvious military applications, there are extensive medical and commercial opportunities for this technology.
According the Wyss Institute, this
"next generation wearable robot can enhance or restore human movement."
The robo-pants could provide assistance to physically-challenged people, warehouse or other heavy-load workers, hikers, runners and the general population.
"Apart from assisting load carriers, we are exploring how the soft exosuit can be used as a platform to assist individuals with compromised ability to produce adequate forces during locomotion, paving the way for many translational opportunities of this technology across a range of different populations."
Could robo-pants be your next pair of Dickies workwear or next-gen Under Armour weight lifting apparel? We'll see.
(c) David J. Katz, 2016, New York City
David J. Katz has degrees in Neuroscience/Biopsychology from Tufts University and marketing from the Harvard Business School. He is executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Randa Accessories, a $700 million global consumer products company. He is a public speaker, co-author of the best-selling book "Design For Response: Creative Direct Marketing That Works" [Rockport Publishers] and has written over 200 published articles. Named one of the fashion industry "Menswear Movers of 2016" and "Industry Geek" by MR Magazine, he has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, and Women's Wear Daily.