Hugh Herr and MIT Media Labs are developing new exoskeleton boots that could make walking over challenging terrain easier for soldiers on the battlefield. The boots could even be used for physical therapy patients who are learning how to walk again or for people who just want to take a very long walk.
The boots are made up of a pair of struts and motors that alternate tension in accordance with your pace, which makes the effort you put in more effective. The increase in efficiency means you could potentially carry more weight and not tire out as quickly. This is perfect for the soldier who is navigating through hostile and rough terrain. Keeping their energy in those situations is a top priority.
MIT tested the theory by putting weighted vests on test subjects and having them walk a treadmill. They measured their oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, which provided the results. The researchers claim that the 50lb weighted vest actually felt like 35 pounds because the exoskeleton boots were carrying 30% of the weight for the user.
“This is the first exoskeleton that actually augments human walking and significantly reduces metabolic cost,” Herr said in a press release. “Subjects noticed that their legs felt heavier and awkward when they took the exoskeleton off.”
While it would be very cool to have a pair of these boots just because of the geek factor, the real applications I see are military and medical. These would be great for service men and women returning with injuries to the legs and feet who may need to learn how to walk again. These would also be very effective for soldiers in the field who often carry heavy loads. It is exciting to see how technology is helping the men and women on the front lines. What do you think? Let us know on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!