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Robotic exoskeleton takes over for your lazy muscles

Paul Miller, @futurepaul
February 10, 2007
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Finally all this research into artificial limbs and human strength augmentation -- as if we'd want to lift stuff -- has resulted in a robotic exoskeleton that doesn't help your muscles do more, but instead allows them to do less. It was designed by researchers at University of Michigan, and is currently being tested on healthy subjects. The ankle exoskeleton is fitted with electrodes which are attached to the wearer's leg muscles and allow the robotics to anticipate muscle movement and perform the action itself. At first a healthy user's gait is disrupted by this extra boost, but after about 30 minutes the person learns to use their own muscles less and have the exoskeleton do most of the walking. We figure similar tests done on a blogger would result in total adaptation in about 7 seconds. Of course, the plan down the road is to use these pneumatic artificial muscles to sense the weaker electrical signals being sent by certain people with spinal injuries or neurological disorders to allow them to move with full strength or to rehabilitate old muscle movements, but that testing has yet to begin, and for now the achievements of this project are purely for the lazy at heart.

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