Scientists unveiled a lightweight, robotic, outer “skeleton” Thursday that can detect when someone loses their balance, correct their gait, and prevent their fall.
Designed to limit stumbles among the elderly, the device has sensors that can discern in real time when a limb starts to buckle or flail, and lightweight motors which exert instant force on both legs to restore balance.
“Wearable machines that enhance your movement and endurance no longer belong to the realm of science fiction,” the device’s creators said in a statement.
According to the World Health Organization, falls are the second cause of death from accidental or unintentional injuries worldwide.
Every year, more than 420,000 people die from falls -- most of those are older than 65. Nearly 40 million falls that require medical attention are reported annually, says the WHO, and this number is likely to skyrocket as people live to become ever older.
Dubbed the Active Pelvis Orthosis, or APO, the new device could also help disabled people and amputees, said its designers from the Scuola Sant’Anna, an Italian University, and Switzerland’s EPFL polytechnical school.
“It’s technology that will actually help people with their daily activities,” they added.
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The team published the results of their lab experiments in the journal Scientific Reports.
The “exoskeleton” is worn from the waist down, its creators explained, “and is vastly different from the armored stuff you see in today’s science fiction movies.”