Exoskeletons have often been associated with the world of sci-fi. Movies like the Terminator, Iron-Man, and even the 1977 classic “Exo-man” have glorified the idea of strapping a piece of robotics onto your body to increase strength or speed.
Now, engineers from Stanford University have taken these fictional ideas and turned them into a reality with their latest creation, an ankle exoskeleton capable of boosting your speed by as much as 10%.
Engineers claim that once the exoskeleton is attached around the ankle and foot of a person, it can make the task of running easier, faster, and allows the user to run longer distances.
The ankle exoskeleton is made up of a lightweight carbon fiber frame, straps, and cables connected to external motors. The system removes significant load from the leg muscles, making it approximately 15% easier to run than without the equipped exoskeleton.
The ankle exoskeleton works in quite an ingenious way. It’s motors pull a cable running through the back of the rig from the heel to the calf. That pulls the foot upward during the toe-off, extending the ankle at the end of every step.
According to Steve Collins, lead author of the research, “When people run, their legs behave like a spring, so we were very surprised that spring-like assistance was not effective. We all have an intuition about how we run or walk, but even top scientists are still discovering how the human body allows us to move efficiently. So experiments like these are so important. ”
While the exoskeleton is still in its early development phase, engineers hope they can create a system that could be used freely without having to be tied to an external machine.
Take a look at the current system in action below.