Of all the wearables for health and medical applications, exoskeletons may be the most exciting and the most visible. Researchers explore robotic exoskeletons to alleviate physical workload, to substitute for impaired or nonfunctional human limbs, and to assist with rehabilitation. The CDC focuses on exoskeleton robotics to reduce job-related physical stress due to lifting or moving to create healthier workplaces. We’ve written about exoskeleton applications as specific as robotic assistance to treat pediatric cerebral palsy crouch gait. We’ve covered an exoskeleton that senses stroke victim intentions and even an exoskeleton that responds to Amazon Alexa commands.
SMS, the Zurich-based Sensory-Motor Systems Lab in the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems division of the Department of Health Sciences and Technology at ETH Zurich focuses on wearable robotics for movement assistance and rehabilitation. The researchers develop robots for both lower and upper limbs. MAXX (Mobility Assisting teXtile eXoskeleton) is a soft robotic device made of functional textiles with none of the rigid structures that are used with most lower-limb exoskeletons. MAXX is flexible and lightweight, minimizing wearer restriction and interference. Integrated sensors monitor physical state and intention to transmit force via tendon actuators anchored at specific functional body landmarks. The wearable’s forces work in conjunction with human bones and joints to provide a power assist.
SMS spin-off MyoSwiss is bringing a commercial version of the MAXX wearable assistive exoskeleton to market, though their website does not make any mention of an expected shipping date. Products like MAXX could be a huge help to individuals with limited mobility, so that they could continue their normal daily activities.