Winterthur - Researchers at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) have developed a pair of hi-tech leggings together with European colleagues. They allow people with walking impediments to get around without additional support.
The leggings – known as XoSoft – feature a soft exoskeleton, which according to information provided by ZHAW is lightweight and comfortable to wear. XoSoft comprises a system of rubber bands and clutches. The wearer’s movements and body strength stretch the rubber bands, thereby storing energy. The whole process is controlled by the clutches, which are activated at just the right moment to snap into place , offering support to the wearer in the process. Eveline Graf, a researcher at ZHAW, explained: “We are attempting to return energy to the body at precisely the right moment”.
The leggings are able to accurately record the movement patterns of the wearer. To this end, sensors register movements and send the information to a controller, which for the moment is still contained within a backpack worn by the wearer. The system allows the wearer to easily control their movements.
Konrad Stadler, a ZHAW researcher at the School of Engineering: “Our system has potential because we do not use a great deal of energy from the outset”. However, in its current form, XoSoft is not yet ready for the market. But that was never the target: “Our focus in this project was on the system to support movements and not market viability”, Stadler explains further.
ZHAW has developed XoSoft together with European project partners. Engineers at the ZHAW School of Engineering assembled the project partners’ individual components and integrated them into the overall system. It was then tested at the ZHAW School of Health Professions, with the results then flowing back to the developers.