Exoskeleton to keep elderly stable
Swiss engineers have developed a high-tech exoskeleton that recognises the loss of balance and prevents falling.
Scientists at EPFL (Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) in Switzerland have built a prototype exoskeleton that counteracts the loss of balance and promotes balance recovery after an accidental slip - a first in wearable machines.
The exoskeleton - worn from the waist down - was designed to help the elderly by preventing fall-related injuries, since seniors are involved in 40 per cent of fatal injuries related to falling in Europe.
However, its designers say it could also be used as an aid for the physically impaired, amputees and those suffering from neurological disorders.
In tests so far, participants have been strapped in to the device equipped with motors at the hip, and braces made out of carbon fibre, and made to walk on a special treadmill that can artificially make them lose balance and slip.
The exoskeleton first detects the particularities of its wearer’s walk; the patterns of the stride known as the ‘gait’.
Once this pattern is established, the system is able to detect deviations from his normal gait, indicating the onset of a fall. When this happens, the motors push both of the thighs down, re-establishing stability at the hip.
“I feel more confident when I wear the exoskeleton,” said 69-year-old test participant Fulvio Bertelli.
The latest paper on the device is accessible here, and a video demonstration can be seen below.