Harvard Researchers Design Wearable Robot Which Could Aid Military By 2016
A wearable robotic exosuit could be aiding soldiers and cerebral palsy patients by the year 2016 thanks to work being carried out at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biological Engineering. The Soft Exosuit project initially got off the ground two years ago thanks to an initial $2.6million contract from DARPA. Earlier this week, that contract was extended with DARPA committing to a further $2.9million, heightening hopes that the Soft Exosuit can become a reality.
Weighing just 13 lbs, the Soft Exosuit will be able to help soldiers carry a significant weight over medium distances. "Wearable robots that aim to help people who suffer from mobility issues are typically heavy and rigid," said Wyss's Conor Walsh. "The current Soft Exosuit prototype is intended to be worn under clothing and weighs about 13 pounds with most of the weight being centered at the waist - a part of the body where humans can easily carry weight. It's really aimed at that kind of segment of the Army that would have to go on a three or four mile march or even longer while carrying a load of over 100 pounds."
However, Walsh hopes that within the next couple of years the suit could start to change the lives of people whose movement has been limited by disease as well as those in the Army. It is expected that clinical trials of the Soft Exosuit could begin for patients suffering from illnesses like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis by 2016 and Walsh hopes that, with further development, it could eventually offer a far more cost-effective alternative to the rigid exoskeletons used today at a cost of around $70,000.
(Credit: Wyss Institute)
There are currently 20 team members working on the development of the suit, with half of that number coming from DARPA itself. Funding of the project forms part of DARPA's Warrior Web Program, which hopes to develop the technologies necessary to prevent the types of musculoskeletal injuries that have become far too common in combat forces.
For more information on the project, visit the http://wyss.harvard.edu/.