ETH Zurich has created a wearable muscle or “exomuscle” that can give additional strength to its wearer. It was primarily designed for patients with muscle impairments, but it can potentially help healthy people by providing extra motion endurance.

Myoshirt is something people wear, and its artificial muscle fibers (a cable) run parallel to the wearer’s muscles. Sensors and intelligent algorithms contract the synthetic fibers when the user moves for additional strength. The company describes the cable as an “artificial tendon.”

The system is designed to leave the wearer in control, says ETH Zurich, and it’s possible to tune the strength to the user’s preference. This particular setup helps with arm and shoulder motion, and you can see the kind of motion supported in the video below.

I like that the system is intuitive and doesn’t require large equipment, as often seen in professional medical therapy devices. According to ETH Zurich, all testers found the equipment straightforward to use, and all (impaired or healthy) have shown some benefits.

This is still a lab prototype, but the next step is to try it outside the lab. It’s fair to assume that it will take a while (and lots of paperwork) before this could become a medical device for everyday patients. However, it is a very promising lead that could induce more future innovations.

For patients who no longer have the strength to lift things such as a gallon of milk or other everyday items, such a device could be life-transformative. More details in Nature (subscription required)

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