Emerging technologies are increasingly designed to help the elderly. Trials with care robots and artificial intelligence programs have shown positive results in tasks like helping elderly patients remember to take medication, and now, a wearable robotic device called Superflex may soon help geriatrics be more mobile, reports MIT Technology Review.
Developed by Superflex Inc. – a spin-off of SRI International – Superflex is a soft exoskeleton that fits snuggly over the wearer’s body and carries much of the load from the legs, arms, and torso. The device can help the elderly walk, maintain good posture, and grab objects with care, but it isn’t strictly designed for senior citizens. Physically disabled people can find renewed strength by wearing an exoskeleton, as can soldiers who often have to carry tremendous loads.
Though elderly citizens often use walkers to help them get around, they aren’t always good for morale. SRI Ventures president Manish Kothari told MIT Technology Review that a walker “completely disempowers, removes dignity, removes freedom, and causes a whole host of other psychological problems … Superflex’s goal is to remove all of those areas that cause psychological-type encumbrances and, ultimately, redignify the individual.”
Superflex won’t offer complete mobility like exoskeletons built by SuitX, Hyundai, and Harvard’s Wyss Institute. But the Superflex will offer built-in sensors that enable the suit to adapt to its wearer’s particular mode of movement, increasing the battery’s efficiency by offering assistance as additional energy is needed. The current prototype takes under five minutes to enter, Kothari told MIT Technology Review, but the commercial version will be designed to slip onto a user in about two minutes or less. These features reduce the Superflex’s size and may make it more practical than its counterparts.