Researchers from INEGI in Porto, Portugal have created an exoskeleton to take the place of crutches and wanderers in order to not only reduce the physical effort, but also increase mobility for people with reduced mobility.
The Mechalife project, led by Daniel Pina, and developed by INEGI, the Institute of Science and Innovation in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Management, began to be developed earlier this year by three distinct teams of this institute, which is part of the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto (FEUP) and intends that this exoskeleton for the outer limbs will allow for elder people or with difficulties in locomotion, to move without difficulties.
This exoskeleton starts at the feet and ends at the waist and assists the locomotion of the lower limbs of the body, and although it is not a lightweight device, it has the capacity to support its own weight, being composed of electric motors, that can guarantee the constant movement for a period of continuous use of up to five hours.
Although the autonomy of the device is not huge, Daniel Pina believes that it is more than sufficient for its users to enjoy this during the course of the day, much because it does not consume energy while in standby and charge the equipment during the night time period.
The teams involved in this development have relied on the constant assistance and advice of health professionals in the areas of rehabilitation medicine and orthopedics, and are currently completing a full-scale prototype, counting on creating fully functional prototypes over the period of the next two years.
Daniel Pina, believes that in addition to helping older people in their day-to-day life by saving energy, they can live longer and in better conditions and with greater independence, since unlike walkers and crutches, this exoskeleton, leaves the upper limbs of its user free for any function, however simple it may be, such as carrying a food tray, or holding a glass of water.
The MechALife project was awarded last September with a prize of 10 000 euros attributed by the BIP Proof Program and counts with the invaluable support of the Amadeu Dias Foundation.