Soon people with mobility challenges and people with injuries requiring rehabilitation may get assistance from a suit originally developed for soldiers for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The original Warrior Web program was designed to enhance soldier performance, reduce the risk of injury, and enable soldiers to carry additional weight. SRI International, Inc.‘s recent spinoff, Superflex, Inc., does not even have a website yet, but it does have an advanced wearable suit with that could someday take the place of walkers and more cumbersome exoskeletal devices.
The Superflex exoskeleton has the same name as the recently spun-off company. In brochures and photos, Superflex looks like a modified wetsuit. The design incorporates electronically releasable spring elements that hold and release energy to support movement. The suit has elements that supplement and protect muscles and joints. In addition to assisting movement with extra strength, the suit would also prevent hyperextension. The goals in designing the suit included minimizing mass, bulk, and noise – all of which are useful for field soldiers but also make civilian use less obtrusive.
Potential applications for the elderly or mobility challenged include mobility assistance, posture support, diagnostics, and load offset (which is a nice way of describing that the suit would do part of the work). In rehabilitation applications, Superflex, or a developed variety of the suit could help with strength maintenance, dynamic alignment, dynamic bracing, range of motion, and force and direction assistance.
The company has not yet disclosed its first intended market, a timeline, or even rough price points, but the potential of eventually being able to suit up in order to carry on with life has great appeal.