Exoskeleton boots take the stress out of walking

JC Torres - Apr 2, 2015
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Exoskeleton boots take the stress out of walking

It might look like a prosthetic limb or a cybernetic leg, but these “boots”, if you can still call them that, are something perfectly normal and capable people can use. What for, you ask? Well nothing more than to actually conserve energy. Humans have evolved to walk on two legs, that much is true. But that doesn’t mean we’ve already reached the most efficient, energy-saving way to walk. That is what this exoskeleton pair are trying to accomplish, trying to reduce that amount of energy you expend while walking.

OK, that might sound something lazy at first glance. After all, health experts would recommend that you actually walk in order to burn calories, stay fit, etc. That doesn’t mean, however that we should waste energy on walking. There’s a thin line between spending energy and spending energy inefficiently, which is what researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering, headed by Steven Collins, are trying to address.

You might think that the boots accomplish this by providing power to the step through electric or motorized means, pretty much like how e-bikes try to augment the bike’s own power. However, there are no wires, batteries, or electronics here. Everything is driven by mechanical parts and the laws of physics. A mechanical clutch is used to hold a spring that stretches and relaxes in concert with the movement of the feet, ankle, calf, and Achilles tendon. It tries to reduce the amount of energy needed for each step by using the spring’s force to provide the necessary push to get the feet off the ground.

To some extent, this is the same mechanical and physical principles used by products like the Enko running shoes, except this is clearly more of a research project than a stylish consumer product. More than just a way to save energy when walking, the exoskeleton’s mechanical clutch could provide a blueprint for exoskeletons, which could be used by industry workers or first responders, that do not require electrical or chemical power sources, both of which could prove to be even dangerous in some situations.

SOURCE: Discovery News


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