The researchers at the Wyss Institute and Harvard School of Engineering are leaving no stone unturned. The team has managed to design a pair of robotic shorts that can push the limits of human endurance and change the face of wearable technology. They have been proven to enhance your running game by cutting an average marathon time from 9:14 to 8: 49. If this is true then it’s an impressive reduction and can be a turning point for athletes and consumers alike. So if you are one of the few who’s tried everything to improve your running time but just can’t seem to beat your personal best, then slipping into a pair of these robotic shorts might just be the key to boosting your performance.
These pair of shorts are actually an “exosuit” that applies force to the hip joint via thin, flexible wires and acts as additional set of hip extensor muscles applying force to the legs with each stride. These wires connect the exosuit to the back of the thighs and waist belt with an actuator that reduces the metabolic cost of running by as much as 5.4 percent.
The team arrived at the most effective system by asking subjects to run on a treadmill with two testing options: one that applied force starting at the point of maximum hip extension as seen in a regular running motion, and the second that applied force a little later, where the actuation unit pulled on the wires acting as a second pair of hip extensor muscles applying force to the legs with each stride and proving to be more efficient.
While running being strapped to an exosuit seems like a faux pas, there’s still a long way to go to make this suit adaptable for running marathons. As of now, the actuator unit with all its motors, electronics, and power supply requires the runners to be tethered to it, and thus one will have to run being treadmill bound.
Although it is not up for grabs right now, the researchers are very optimistic about launching the real-world application of the suit. “Our goal is to develop a portable system with a high power-to-weight ratio so that the benefit of using the suit greatly offsets the cost of wearing it,” said lead study author Giuk Lee, in an interview with the Harvard Publication. “We believe this technology could augment the performance of recreational athletes and/or help with recovery after injury,” he adds.
Image Courtesy: Wyss Institute at Harvard University