Disorders of the nervous system account for approximately 28% of all years of life lived with disability worldwide.The distal parts of the limbs are known to be the most affected by persistent decits, with weakness of voluntary contraction and hypertonus of the extensor muscles strongly reducing the ability to extend the joints. Despite this, the current contribution of robotic devices to aid motor-impaired subjects is limited to the clinical environment: very little effort has been devoted to design a wearable robotic device that is simple and portable enough to be used at home and in common daily activities.
The use of clothing-like frames, known as exosuits, for transmitting forces to the human body represents an appealing solution for human motion assistance. Their intrinsic compliance, low profile and quasi-negligible inertia make them likely candidates for use on a daily-basis. The absence of a rigid structure, moreover, avoids joint-misalignment problems and makes the device transparent to human kinematics. Last but not least, using fabric allows to significantly reduce the overall cost of the device, bridging the current gap between the low purchasing power of the majority of the population in need for assistive technologies and the unbearable cost of state-of-the art exoskeletons.
Video 1: An EC motor drives a pair of tendons in an antagonistic fashion; disengaging and electromechanical clutch uncouples the motor from the load.
Video 2: A load cell monitors the force applied by the exosuit and an EMG sensor the subject's muscular effort during flexion/extension movements.
Work in progress: a controller that makes your own arm weightless.