Exoskeletons offer a lot of potential in industrial situations. Recent research has identified another use case: improving balance.
Researchers at Georgia Tech supplied healthy young people with robotic boots and then automatically but literally pulled the rug out from under them — using motion control and motors to move the floor they were standing on. The boots were supposed to help with balance and help the humans avoid falls.
Sophisticated sensors tracked the movements of the subjects’ muscles. It turns out that the boots only helped to prevent falls if they responded to the floor movement faster than the humans could on their own.
How fast can you respond?
People’s ability to respond to a slip which could result in a fall is variable. Some people have faster reactions than others. However, machines can be faster still. It takes some time for the brain to realize that the floor is unstable or that the foot has slipped. Then it take some time for the brain to communicate with the muscles of the legs so they can respond with adjustments providing a catch to avoid a fall.
Machines can respond faster. And it is only when they are set for immediate response that they beat a healthy young person’s own ability to balance.
It is possible that the boots would be more effective or at least more of a game changer for older people, people with physical limitations, or people working in inherently unstable conditions, as can happen in construction and manufacturing. In these cases, exoskeleton boots that can respond in the same time as a healthy young human in an experiment could still be beneficial. Workers who are involved in high-risk jobs such as construction or mining may be at risk of falls or other injuries due to unstable footing or uneven terrain. By wearing exoskeleton boots, these workers could improve their balance and stability, reducing their risk of injury and improving their overall productivity.
See how fast we can respond
Okay, it’s not exactly the same thing. But we can provide 24-hour turnaround when you need service and support for your Indramat motion control systems. Call (479) 422-0390 for immediate assistance.