Thursday 27 October 2016

Bionic trousers that will help disabled to walk 'no longer stuff of science fiction'

Greg Harkin

Published 18/10/2016 | 02:30

Adam de Eyto (left) and Leonard O’Sullivan of the University of Limerick
Adam de Eyto (left) and Leonard O’Sullivan of the University of Limerick

Irish scientists hope to have made life-changing 'bionic trousers' within three years, which could help some people with disabilities to walk.

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Academics at the University of Limerick are part of a European team behind the advance in wearable robotics and plan to build the first fully-functional prototype of XoSoft 'intelligent' trousers by 2019.

Click to view full size graphic
Click to view full size graphic

The soft 'exoskeleton' would allow older people or people with disabilities to move their legs by detecting movement intention.

The Design Factors Research Group based in UL's School of Design is part of the ground-breaking health-robotics project to develop the soft, modular, lower-limb exoskeleton.

More advanced versions will be made to look like ordinary trousers, they say.

This group is led by Senior lecturer in Design Ergonomics at UL and Health Research Institute (HRI) member, Dr Leonard O'Sullivan, and head of UL's School of Design, Dr Adam de Eyto.

"This is no longer the stuff of science fiction," Dr O'Sullivan said.

"We've already started work on this and it is critical that the end product is consumer-friendly and is a product people want to wear without feel self-conscious.

"Technology in this area is moving at an incredible pace and our aim is to see wearable robotic trousers available to consumers in just a few years' time."

He said the technology could be life-changing for older people and people with disabilities.

"Ideally, in just a few years the trousers will be widely available, and will be affordable. They should look like an ordinary pair of trousers and would, for example, be of huge benefit to people who are what we call 'pre-frail', allowing people to continue to be active," he said.

"It is an area where we are at the forefront of research and design and it is very, very exciting."

Irish Independent

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