- Stanford researchers have developed a portable exoskeleton that makes running easier, reducing the energy cost of running movement by up to 15%.
- The team says they are working to further improve the system, and ultimately working to make the device fully portable.
- The researchers hope it will be easier for non-athletic people to make running a part of their lives.
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Humans were created to run, but that doesn't mean we all enjoy it. In fact, I'll take a chance and say that most people who read this probably hate running, and that's fine. Even if you're in good shape, running isn't always easy or comfortable, but Stanford University has developed a new accessory that could change the way you feel by making it a little easier.
The exoskeleton, which the team says they developed in part as a way to make the race more accessible to the average person, consists of a lightweight carbon fiber frame, straps, and cables connected to external motors. The system removes significant load from the leg muscles, making it approximately 15% easier to run than without the equipped exoskeleton.
It's an impressive upgrade from a relatively simple device, but it's even more impressive considering the exoskeleton also has to cancel the added burden of running with a device attached to a person's legs.
Simply using an exoskeleton platform that shut down increased the energy cost of running, making it 13 percent more difficult than running without the exoskeleton. However, experiments indicated that if properly powered by an engine, the exoskeleton reduces the energy cost of running, making it 15 percent easier than running without the exoskeleton and 25 percent easier than running. with the exoskeleton off.
"When people run, their legs behave like a spring, so we were very surprised that spring-like assistance was not effective," said Steve Collins, lead author of the research, in a statement. "We all have an intuition about how we run or walk, but even top scientists are still discovering how the human body allows us to move efficiently. So experiments like these are so important. "
The team has not finished honing its system and hopes to further reduce the impact of the exoskeleton itself, further increase the overall gains of the device, and improve running movement. Of course, the biggest obstacle would be creating a system that could be used freely without having to be tied to an external machine. If researchers can make that happen, devices that make running easier could be popular with athletic runners and less-athletic people who aspire to make running a part of their daily lives.