Warrior Suit R&D Paves Road to Robotics for the Aging and Disabled

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gluteus maximus—-the strong muscle in the buttocks that’s essential for actions such as standing up and climbing stairs.

Here are some of the issues Superflex will tackle:

Sizing. How to design a form-fitting suit for a population with varying heights, girths, and body shapes. Must it be a custom-sewn for each user?

“We do believe there will be specific size ranges,” Mahoney says.

Fabric. The fabric component of the suit must be stretchable and strong to support the tech components. But what if an elderly wearer has a heart attack and ER doctors need to get it off quickly?

“Any kind of knife or scissors should be able to cut it,” Mahoney says. “We are working through all those kinds of scenarios.”

Mahoney sees the fundamental suit design as a technology platform that can be adapted for specialized purposes, such as medical rehabilitation and assisting people with muscular dystrophy or specific disabilities. Down the line, such products might be eligible for health insurance reimbursement, he says.

No matter what population the suit will serve, a key design question is how to make the suit coordinate with the wearer’s intended movements. Mahoney says the possibilities include buttons to press, or sensors on the suit combined with machine learning to detect and reinforce the user’s actions. Superflex could work with outside developers to adapt components such as biomedical sensors to create specialized versions of the suit, he says.

What about a smart voice assistant that would allow the wearer to simply say, “We’re getting up now,” I asked him.

“Any interface like that is absolutely possible,” Mahoney says.

Photo courtesy of Superflex

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