Patients may soon be able to get a bionic pick-me-up without undergoing the pain and lengthy recovery of surgery - an exoskeleton to support people who, through age or injury, are limited in their movement.

Engineers at the University of Cincinnati have designed and built a spring-assisted leg exoskeleton that can help people stand and sit.

Further research partnerships are examining how a brain-computer interface can interpret how to operate the exoskeleton with what the user wants to do. 
Additionally, researchers are exploring muscle activity to produce a suit that will work in cooperation with the natural movement of the patient/user, rather than forcing a predetermined motion.

Credit: University of Cincinnati.

Gaurav Mukherjee, a
University of Cincinnati
master's student in mechanical engineering, says that a movement analysis study has been underway in the lab – using markers on the body to build a virtual model. The results of the experiment can help researchers design the exoskeleton to supplement the capability of the user. 

The exoskeleton could hold promise for the nation's aging Baby Boomer population, adding that as many as 3 million American senior citizens currently require some form of nursing supervision. The interdisciplinary research is hoped to one day benefit geriatric patients, patients affected by stroke and paraplegics, in gaining independence in movement.

The exoskeleton research is a collaboration with the College of Engineering and Applied Science's Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computing Systems and the UC College of Nursing. Future research will involve further development of the exoskeleton in building supports to enable movement of ankles and hips, as well as developing better fluidity in movement.

 Mukherjee will present the interdisciplinary research on Nov. 15th at the International Human-Centered Robotics Symposium, which will be held at University of Cincinnati's Kingsgate Marriott Conference Center.