‘Smart’ robotic clothing offers mobility to those with disabilities

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde are developing soft, robotic clothing that could boost mobility in elderly patients and those with disabilities.

The clothing will use 3-D fabrication, functional electrical stimulation, nanoscience and full-body monitoring technologies, which will allow the clothing to monitor the user’s muscle function and adjust to individual needs, according to a university press release.

Researchers believe the “smart” clothing could help wearers climb stairs, avoid falls and give them added strength to move between sitting and standing positions. They also hope the technology can help reduce poor circulation and skin pressure damage, which are common among similar technologies.

“We want to help people not only to become more mobile, but to have power behind their mobility,” Arjan Buis, PhD, a researcher from Strathclyde’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, said in the release. “We also want to ensure they have dignity by being able to put on this clothing themselves and not to have to change it during the day.”

The clothing will come in a variety of forms, reaching to the ankle, knee or hip, the release said.

The researchers hope the clothing will ultimately replace the stair lift or be an alternative for wheelchair users. They plan to begin testing 1 year into a 3-year study, which is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The project is one of three to receive funding after being developed using EPSRC’s creative workshop approach, known as a sandpit, according to the release.

Reference: www.strath.ac.uk.

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