The exoskeleton could become the robo bodysuit by 2018. Yves Béhar's Fuseproject has collaborated with Superflex, a robotics spin-off from R&D company SRI International, on this Aura Powered Clothing prototype that will be a real product within two years.
The Superflex suit is 'powered' in the sense that it houses motors in the hexagonal pods, which add muscle power and take some of the work out of the wearer's movement, a kind of exoskeleton light.
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So, elderly people could wear the suit to help them walk, stand up from a chair, sit down, stay upright or get up and down the stairs. Fuseproject's blog also alludes to potential uses for disabled people, too.
It's no surprise that the concept was inspired by military smart clothing that allows soldiers to carry heavy loads, for instance. The pads are placed on the wearer's back and on either leg and both these modules of motors, sensors and boards and the wires are actually emphasised in the current, inside-out design.
In a Fuseproject blog post titled 'Clothing that moves you' Béhar explained: "Expanding the social lives of an aging population, and extending the window during which they can remain independent, active, and connected, is what Superflex and Fuseproject are enabling in the immediate future; smart, yet friendly – and invisible – connected wearables that represent the future of movement, with profound physical and emotional benefits."
Now, Aura is definitely smart and friendly, we're not sure about the 'invisible' part when the bodysuit is on display though that's no bad thing. Why shouldn't grandmas and grandads feel like superheroes? We don't know what the suit is made of yet, just that it's lightweight and that the pods are fluid fabric, too, so they move with the wearer. As for power, the tech components of the suit include batteries.
The concept smart clothing is being shown off at the Design Museum's New Old exhibition alongside another Fuseproject design, the home companion robot ElliQ from Israeli robotics firm Intuition Robotics. New Old looks at innovations around ageing, identity, community, working & mobility and runs until 19 February at the Kensington, London venue.