Ever heard of ‘Soft Robotics’? Well, let us tell you something about it. It’s an area of research with some truly transformative potential and its latest application is turning heads in the Parkinson’s community. You see, a team of brainy bods at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has conjured up a wearable device that works like a second skin, enhancing the mobility of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. And it’s a real game-changer.
Imagine a pair of super-powered leggings. These ‘robotic trousers’ are non-restrictive and easy to walk in. They’re made from cutting-edge materials which, when combined, form a soft, flexible design that’s light on the legs and comfy to boot. The soft robotics mimic the muscles in the leg, providing additional strength to each step and compensating for the movement difficulties often faced by individuals with Parkinson’s.
So, how does it work? The wearable uses artificial intelligence (AI) to learn the wearer’s specific gait patterns. It can then adjust to provide the right kind of assistance at the right time, giving the wearer a kind of ‘boost’ when they’re walking. This is especially useful when dealing with ‘Freezing of Gait’ (FOG), a common and particularly troublesome symptom of Parkinson’s. When FOG strikes, it feels like your feet are glued to the floor, making it impossible to move. This wearable device can predict when a FOG episode is likely to happen and provide just the right amount of support to help the wearer keep moving.
The results so far have been promising. The study, published on newswise.com, states that the device improved the walking speed of a Parkinson’s patient by 9 percent, and reduced the number of ‘freezing’ episodes by staggering 37 percent. That’s a significant improvement in mobility, which can translate to a better quality of life for individuals with Parkinson’s!
Now, this soft robotic wearable is still in the research phase, but imagine the positive impact it could have once it hits the mainstream. Living with Parkinson’s is tough; anything that can help improve mobility and independence is a big win. We can’t wait to see how the field of soft robotics evolves, and what other incredible innovations it might bring to the healthcare sector.
Stay tuned, tech-lovers – the future of wearable tech looks bright, and it’s soft to the touch!