We’ve all seen exoskeletons before. These devices have been used in a variety of situations, such as helping those who are paralyzed walk, and also helping factory workers by allowing them to lift heavier objects. Now it looks like researchers at Stanford University have developed an exoskeleton designed to be worn around the ankles that will apparently help us run better.
Right off the bat, the researchers acknowledge that wearing an exoskeleton around the legs would in fact make running harder due to the extra weight. However, they also claimed that if powered properly by a motor, it could help to offset the extra energy spent, while at the same time increasing our running power.
The exoskeleton has been designed to mimic a spring, where the energy is stored at the beginning of a step, and then unloading as the toes push off the ground. According to Delaney Miller, a graduate student who is working on the exoskeleton, “Powered assistance took off a lot of the energy burden of the calf muscles. It was very springy and very bouncy compared to normal running.”
Based on their tests, the researchers discovered that the exoskeleton actually boosted the runner’s speed by as much as 10%. They also note that this number could potentially be improved upon given more time and training for the wearer to get used to it.