Robotic trousers could keep elderly mobile
Smart trousers with artificial muscles are being developed to help the elderly and disabled with their mobility.
Researchers at the University of Bristol have developed robotic muscles – air-filled bubbles of plastic that can raise a leg from a seated to a standing position – in the trousers, which were on show at the British Science Festival in Hull last week.
Approximately 10 million people in the UK are believed to experience problems with mobility. A further 1.2 million who have suffered a stroke, requiring assistance with walking, sitting and standing, and with other day-to-day tasks like dressing. Moreover, by 2046, nearly a quarter of the population of the UK could be aged 65 and over, with an associated growth in the need for social services to provide occupational therapists and carer staff.
The ‘power trousers’, which bring together experts in fields including functional 3D-printing, smart-material development and artificial muscle technology, are expected to provide a 5-10 per cent increase in strength to the wearer’s own muscles, within a decade.
The trousers have been likened to the robotic garments featured in the famous animated film starring the characters Wallace and Gromit.
The project was funded by UK Research and Innovation's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
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