What a breakthrough: Stanford engineers have created robotic boots that enable you to move more quickly and with less effort. The motorised boots employ artificial intelligence to offer a tailored boost that is exactly appropriate for the wearer.
The boots, which have been under development for 20 years, are the most recent development in wearable exoskeleton technology, which enables users to have more strength and endurance. Almost like an Iron Man outfit in the real world.
People with limited mobility, such as the elderly or those with impairments, may benefit from the usage of such technology. But figuring out how to customise these devices for each person has been difficult.
According to Patrick Slade, PhD, one of the researchers that worked on the boots, “It turns out humans are incredibly efficient walkers in a way that makes [offering] help challenging.” Everybody walks differently, and what works in the lab frequently does not apply in everyday life.
Some people, for instance, require a stronger push than others, or a slower speed to keep them stable.
That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) enters the picture, specifically a type of AI known as machine learning that employs algorithms to quickly analyse data and “learn” things. In this instance, the boots make adjustments based on the user’s walking style after learning it through inexpensive sensors.
It is referred to as “human-in-the-loop optimization” by researchers. The boots pick up on a person’s speed and stride length in addition to their metabolic rate and energy expenditure. Both ankle force and motion are measured.
The results: When wearing them, a person can walk 9% faster and use 17% less energy. That is roughly the increase you might anticipate after removing a 30-pound backpack.
According to the researchers’ assessment in a Nature study, that represents the greatest advancement in walking performance of any exoskeleton to yet. Additionally, it reduces effort by almost two times compared to earlier devices without machine learning.
The boots will then be put to the test on elderly folks and people with disabilities, two groups who most require them, according to Slade.
However, in the long run, more people might have access to boots like this, such as athletes looking to improve their performance and office workers who must stand all day at work. The boots, for instance, could increase productivity among warehouse workers by easing joint discomfort and muscle stiffness.
Additionally, Carol Mack, a physical therapist and the proprietor of CLE Sports PT & Performance in Cleveland, points out that the advantages would go beyond just assisting with movement and might perhaps lower the chance of falling as well as improve quality of life and mental health. She is knowledgeable with the difficulties of elderly rehab as well as individuals who are less mobility due to neurological disorders, despite the fact that she was not involved in this research.
Exoskeletons are a promising new technology, according to the author, and they would improve more than just walking speed. It might also help with the kind of hip and core control required for balance maintenance. That could boost people’s confidence who have mobility issues, which is a significant development.