Research highlight

Biomedical engineering: A robotic solution to keeping your balance

Scientific Reports

May 12, 2017

A wearable robotic device that can help people recover their balance after they slip unexpectedly is described in Scientific Reports this week. The authors suggest that this device could be used to help prevent falls among the elderly.

Silvestro Micera and colleagues describe a robotic exoskeleton device called the Active Pelvis Orthosis (APO) that, using an algorithm, can detect a loss of balance and supply a counteracting torque at the hips to assist balance recovery. Eight participants (with an average age of 68.9) and two transfemoral (above the knee) amputees were involved in trials with and without the APO. Participants were asked to walk at their preferred speed on a custom-built treadmill (while wearing a safety harness) that produced movements designed to cause slips. The authors found that stability against falls improved when the participants were wearing the APO due to the “assisting when needed” behaviour of the device. The authors note that their results must be confirmed in additional subjects.

The authors suggest that their findings demonstrate the potential of wearable robotics to assist the elderly and disabled during slippage events, thus potentially improving their quality of life.

doi: 10.1038/srep46721

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