Exoskeletons have long lived in a world of sci-fi and fantasy. But researchers from Stanford University’s Biomechatronics Laboratory—which in itself sounds like a Marvel writer’s wet dream—have turned exos into reality with their robotic boots.
In a recent article published in the journal Nature, researchers unveiled these untethered and battery-powered robotic boots that allow you to walk nine percent faster and save 17 percent less energy compared to normal shoes.
Researchers say the extra boost and energy-saving power feel like “taking off a 30-pound backpack.”
The boots work with a motor that activates your calf muscles to give you an extra push with each step. Unlike other exoskeletons, these boots have a machine-learning-based model to personalize your walking style.
“The first time you put an exoskeleton on can be a bit of an adjustment,” said Ava Lakmazaheri, a graduate student in the Biomechatronics Laboratory, via a Stanford press release. “But, honestly, within the first 15 minutes of walking, it starts to feel quite natural. Walking with the exoskeletons quite literally feels like you have an extra spring in your step.”
Researchers hope to test this terminator-looking footwear on their target demographic; the elderly and people with low mobility due to a disability. Improvements for better balance and reduced joint pain are next on the list to make this device’s debut a reality.
“This is the first time we’ve seen an exoskeleton provide energy savings for real-world users,” says Patrick Slade, a PhD student and a Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford.
“I believe that over the next decade we’ll see these ideas of personalizing assistance and effective portable exoskeletons help many people overcome mobility challenges or maintain their ability to live active, independent, and meaningful lives.”