Robotic shorts make walking and running easier

Press Release

In the race for technology, researchers have unveiled biomechanical shorts. 

Unveiled Thursday by a group of researchers, robotic shorts could become the sporting equipment of dreams for every walker or runner eager to improve their performance. This gear – an accessory that evokes comics of superheroes – is a reduced adaptation of the exoskeleton, a robot of assistance to the effort which takes the appearance of a sort of modern armor and which finds its fields of use in the military or medical field.

Specifically, the biomechanical shorts weigh five kilograms, with the battery around the waist included. The engine, located at the level of the kidneys, activates cables assisting the effort provided by the legs. The device detects and adapts to the pace of the walker or runner.

Biomechanical shorts, an accessory in the service of performance

“Walking or running are two very different modes of travel and the already existing machines are concentrated in their design on one or the other,” explains Conor Walsh, one of the researchers of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, which depends on Harvard.

“In the end, it could allow someone in good health to improve their performance or reduce the fatigue of a soldier tramping with his equipment. I think that with this machine we take a big step to devices capable of assisting people in a variety of ways in the activities of their daily lives,” he says.

The technological breakthrough is based on an algorithm that, with three sensors, manages to guess in 99% of cases the activity of the shorts wearer and to adapt to it.

The battery is designed for a range of 10 kilometers, running or walking. The robotic shorts have been tested in different environments: treadmill, hill climb, track and field. “And 90% of the weight of the device is located near the center of inertia of the human body, which reduces the harshness of the port,” insists Jinsoo Kim, another researcher member of the project. The team’s scientists, however, are seeking to extend the applications of the biomechanical shorts for the benefit of people with a partial loss of mobility.

Kylee Hutchinson

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