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Lightweight Ankle Exoskeleton Makes Walking Easier

Unpowered ankle exoskeleton harnesses the body’s energy to make walking more efficient.

Summary:  Researchers designed a lightweight ankle exoskeleton that harnesses the power of a person’s own muscles to make walking more efficient. This device requires no external power, instead using a spring system to reduce the load placed on the calf muscles and make walking easier. The researchers tested the devices on nine healthy adults, who wore them on both legs while walking on a treadmill. These experiments revealed that wearing the exoskeleton reduced the energy cost of walking by 7.2 percent, which is equivalent to the effect of taking off a 10-pound backpack. Although the exoskeleton is only a prototype at this point, it holds promise as a way to make walking easier for people recovering from an injury or dealing with normal aging issues.

Citation:  Collins SH, Wiggin MB, Sawicki GS. Reducing the energy cost of human walking using an unpowered exoskeleton. Nature. 2015 Jun 11; 522(7555): 212-5. PMID: 25830889

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