NASA partnered with Florida Institute for Human And Machine Cognition or IHMC have designed a new exoskeleton that has been named the XI. The primary purpose of the robotic suit is to help astronauts in space keep in shape for their return to Earth. At the same time, it shows promise of helping people walk here on this planet.
The suit weighs 57 pounds which fits over a person to either assist with walking or provide resistance as needed. In space, astronauts would use it as resistance to act as an exercise machine and keep the leg muscles in shape.
This same suit could be used to help people walk who have been unable to do so for one reason or another. It could be used as a rehabilitation device or to modify gaits. People who are victims of a spinal injury could be able to walk again with the assistance of XI.
The NASA RoboSuit takes up very little space, which is of prime importance on a long flight with limited room. It provides 10 degrees of freedom and four motorized joints to provide motion at the hips and knees. Six additional passive joints allow the wearer to step to the side, turn, and even be able to flex their foot.
Muscle loss is a concern for astronauts on long flights along with loss of bone density.
Benefits Here on Earth
This device could help people recover from a serious injury by providing the assistance they need to get mobile. For those who are injured permanently, the RoboSuit would serve as their new legs. The issue that lies ahead is providing the power needed and modern batteries could be the solution. There is also the possibility in the future of even lighter-weight materials than the 57 pounds for this suit.
While it might not be the same thing as having your own legs, for those who spend their lives in a wheelchair, it could be a dream come true.