Exoskeletal Suit Reimagines Technology For The Elderly
The ‘powersuit’ is the brainchild of designer Yves Béhar and superflex, using minute electronic ‘muscles’ embedded within hexagonal cells
When we think of assistive technologies for the elderly, the mind immediately jumps to smart homes, helper-bots and Life Alert—devices that reduce their workload. Of course, it makes sense to want to eliminate our parents or grandparents’ responsibilities, but in reality this may be doing more harm than good. By removing some of the chores from this age group’s daily routine, we in turn promote a sedentary lifestyle that can have more severe consequences than if we let them deal with back pain while washing the dishes. Acting as a secondary skin for those with discomfort while maneuvering, powersuit is the brainchild of designer Yves Béhar and superflex, a ‘powered clothing’ startup that recently separated from SRI international’s robotics lab. Unveiled in the London Design Museum’s exhibition NEW OLD, the suit is composed of minute electronic ‘muscles’ embedded within hexagonal cells, each of which are outfitted with motors and sensors and connect to an artificially intelligent mainframe.
The lightweight layer affords wearers a subtle support mechanism which responds to motion, assisting users with sitting or standing, balance and general mobility. That said, the suit doesn’t do all the legwork, and over time it even trains and strengthens one’s body to rely less on its assistance.
Weighing in at less than three pounds, the suit is ergonomic, and snugly hugs the body to grow or shrink to one’s exact proportions so as to ensure maximal support. The aforementioned hexagonal shells permit movement in three dimensions, granting a wide range of motion to fully restore wearer’s timeworn capacities. Through color-coding, the design makes it intuitive to suit up, and highlights the exact points where the exoskeleton connects to the body’s main muscle groups. The final product promises to be even more elegant and practically invisible, removing the need for devices such as Life Alert altogether.