Panasonic develops flexible exoskeleton that hugs the body like a second skin

Perhaps, in the near future, exoskeletons will be able to completely replace traditional means of transportation for people with problems of the musculoskeletal system.

As a rule, skeletons are equipped with electric motors in "joints", from where forces are transmitted to rigid components connected to the patient's legs, allowing him to move. However, most rehabilitating exoskeletons have a serious drawback - the inability to turn to the side and turn 180 degrees. In fact, a disabled person with an exoskeleton is “doomed” to walk only straight until he finds an opportunity to turn around with the help of foreign objects.

That is why American John Stephen, together with his colleagues from Panasonic company, is developing a soft-fitting exoskeleton with a mechanical block on the back. The unit consists of eight motors, batteries and a control system.

Instead of several separate motors, it powers its wearer's legs using four actuators on the thighs. The actuators, in turn, "launch" soft plastic that wraps around the legs, which takes on the role of the human muscles responsible for movement. According to one of the project participants, Steve Collins, the tight-fitting fabric from which these synthetic muscles are made makes it possible to change the position of the legs in several directions.

In preliminary tests, the exoskeleton was tested on five healthy, blindfolded volunteers. In each case, when the direction of movement changed, they never lost their balance. Now tests with people with disabilities are next in line.