In recent years, new technical and technological textile solutions have appeared to serve people with minor or major disabilities in order to provide them with a more comfortable and practical life. we take as an example, the new textile product Myoshirt: a soft and wearable exomuscle for the upper body.
The principle of increasing the strength and endurance of the upper body of people with reduced mobility prompted researchers from ETH Zurich, a public research university in Switzerland, to develop a flexible portable robot based on textile materials that serve as muscle reinforcement for those who suffer from muscular dystrophies.
This new product comes in the form of a vest with cuffs for the upper arms, accompanied by a small box containing sensitive sensors integrated into the garment to detect the voluntary movements of the wearer and the amount of force required. Myoshirt has a cable which functions identically as an artificial tendon and which can be shortened in the fabric parallel to the wearer’s muscles by a motor, depending on the desired movements. This service is linked to the personal preferences of users.
Numerous tests and diagnoses were tested by the researchers on different participants: normal people, a person with muscular dystrophy and a person with a spinal cord injury. The Myoshirt exomuscle showed promising results, healthy participants experienced a delayed onset of muscle fatigue, while during a functional task their muscle activity decreased. The participant with impairments due to muscular dystrophy his endurance increased by approximately 60%. In contrast, the subject with spinal cord injury performed the exercises three times longer.
All the people who participated were able to lift their arms much longer than usual thanks to Myoshirt, which makes this robot efficient and beneficial.
Indeed, the only drawback to mention is that the Myoshirt technology is not yet ready to be used in real conditions, this is largely due to the weight of the motor and the battery which currently weigh 4kg. A figure still far too high for an application of this type. The researchers are working to reduce the size and weight of the device in order to allow its use in full comfort and then to develop a real product ready to be marketed on the market.
The need for mobile and wearable robots can further assist able-bodied people during home rehabilitation and activities of daily living, as being able to perform everyday activities effortlessly is essential to ensure the personal independence.