Stanford 'Exoskeleton' combat boots help people walk and run faster with less effort

Stanford ‘Exoskeleton’ combat boots help people walk and run faster with less effort

less sluggish with Stanford exoskeleton combat boots

People who may have problems with their motor, feet and/or ankle; find it difficult to walk at a normal pace; or probably just don’t have free time to exert yourself walking, then Stanford University researchers – including Steve Collins, Patrick Slade, Mykel J. Porzellanderfer, Scott L. Delp – have developed the “exoskeleton” combat cut robotics Boots that help people walk and run faster with less effort. With this shoe design, no need to pull body weight with your feet. The mechanism the researchers developed adds nudges to people’s steps to help them powerwalk. Stanford’s exoskeleton combat boots have a motor that pumps up the calf muscles, giving people that extra boost they need to keep going.

The researchers are outfitting this engine with a machine learning-based model that has been trained over years using human emulators. The end goal of the exoskeleton combat boots is to relieve those with limited mobility from the challenge of heavy walking and allow them to move however they choose. It sounds different than creatives creating shoes for style and fashion (just look at these orthopedic boots which are very soft by the way). The research team hopes to improve the boots’ technology for commercialization and mass production in the years to come, so better prepare the newsletter for updates when it launches, or pocket it in case the price tag far exceeds expectations lies.


Images and video courtesy of Stanford and the research team

How does it work?

Ava Lakmazaheri, PhD student in the biomechatronics lab University at Stanford, is the one wearing the exoskeleton combat boots in the tests and the video above. Aside from the slow motion effects added to some clips, viewers can see her increasing her speed while maintaining her posture. This differs from when people need to accelerate and simply lean forward or bend their body forward to gain speed. However, wearing Stanford’s exoskeleton combat boots comes at the price of taking some getting used to until people settle in.

As Ava shares, there may be some adjustment when first putting on the exoskeleton combat boots (it really depends on the person wearing them). “But honestly, within the first 15 minutes of walking, it feels completely natural. Walking with the exoskeletons literally feels like you have an extra spring in your step. It really makes the next step a lot easier.” She adds. The exoskeleton combat boots increase walking speed by applying torque to the ankle and replacing some of the functions of the calf muscle. So when the wearer takes a step, the robotic boots will nudge them just before they lift their feet. It’s like an omen or deja vu, but in this case people actually feel it instead of just dreaming about it or seeing it.

When a person first wears the exoskeleton combat boots, their system will provide a different pattern of support each time the person walks. By measuring the resulting movement, the machine learning model determines how to better support the person the next time they walk. It only takes about an hour’s walk for the exoskeleton to adapt to a new user. According to the team’s calculations, walking with exoskeleton combat boots is like walking without a 30-pound backpack on your shoulders, and that’s a lot.

Stanford 'Exoskeleton' combat boots
The boots help people walk and run faster with less effort

What’s next?

Statistics buffs might be excited as researchers say Stanford’s exoskeleton combat boots are helping people walk ‘9% faster with 17% less energy expenditure per distance compared to walking in regular shoes. These are the biggest improvements to date in the speed and power of economical walking of any exoskeleton,” says Steve Collinsassociate professor of mechanical engineering who directs the Stanford Biomechatronics Laboratory and to learn. The researchers now plan to study their target demographics, namely older adults and people who are beginning to have problems and/or difficulties with their movement.

They are also planning variations for the exoskeleton combat boots to improve balance and reduce joint pain for the wearer as needed. “I believe over the next decade we will see these ideas of personalized support and effective wearable exoskeletons that will help many people overcome mobility issues or maintain their ability to lead active, independent, and meaningful lives.” says Patrick Slade, who worked on the exoskeleton as a PhD student. The researchers also have high hopes that commercial partners will show interest in their technology and help their invention develop into an actual product.

Stanford 'Exoskeleton' combat boots
The mechanism adds nudges to people’s steps to help them power walk

Stanford 'Exoskeleton' combat boots
The engine is based on a machine learning based model that has been trained over the years by humans using emulators

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