Robotic Exoskeletons May Become Skintight Suits

Slashdot reader Kassandra Perlongo shares an article about “soft robotics and exoskeletons” at the University of Salford, writing “those bulky, mechanical suits could eventually be a thing of the past.”

Children with a rare neurological disease were recently given the chance to walk for the first time thanks to a new robotic exoskeleton… But while today’s exoskeletons are mostly clumsy, heavy devices, new technology could make them much easier and more natural to use by creating a robotic skin… [Soft robotic devices] are particularly well suited to interaction with humans as they are typically lightweight which means if they collide with a person they are unlikely to cause injury.

We recently developed a new “soft continuum actuator”, a joint that bends like an elephant’s trunk…if it encounters resistance in one part of its body it will still bend but at a different location elsewhere along its length. By equipping a skintight material suit with these actuators, we can create a soft exoskeleton that bends at the precise location of the wearer’s joints. This means the suit will fit a range of users comfortably without needing mechanical adjustment or calibration. Plus, the system is lightweight and can be worn like clothing rather than a bulky mechanical frame.


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