In recent years, exoskeletons have been gaining popularity in the medical field because of their capacity to rehabilitate the partially or fully paralyzed, as well as aiding in the rehab of injured patients. However, these exoskeleton suits are often quite expensive and involve much complicated machinery. Additionally, their size and weight make them ideal for patients who are mostly immobile, rather than patients in need of extra help while walking.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon and North Carolina State University are developing a cheaper, lightweight solution via a “power boot.” The power boot is worn over the calf and shin and uses a clutch and spring to mimic the motion of the Achilles tendon. The boot can reduce the overall energy needed to walk by about 7 percent, or the equivalent of removing a 10-pound backpack load. Because of the small, lightweight size and lack of complex mechanical components, the developers are planning to market the device to those with limited mobility in one limb, older adults who are trying to continue an active lifestyle, or hikers and athletes who want to go longer distances with less strain on their joints. The expected cost for the power boot will be between several hundred and several thousand dollars, as opposed to current exoskeletons which cost between $40,000 and $80,000.
(Source: Popular Science)