[EAS] Real Techno-Trousers

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Thu Feb 5 01:06:07 EST 2004

Subject:   Real Techno-Trousers

Techno-Trousers refers to the delightful Wallace & Gromit animation
"The Wrong Trousers." If you haven't seen it, seek it out. 
But in any case, real techno-trousers seem to have arrived, though
nothing is said about the power source.  --PJK

(from INNOVATION, 4 February 2004)

Researchers at Nagasaki University, working in collaboration with 
scientists at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo and
the  University of California, Irvine, have built a pair of "power
pants" that  can be strapped on to greatly enhance the wearer's
strength. The pants  contain computerized sensors that detect how
the wearer is moving his or  her leg and hip muscles -- doing deep
knee bends, for instance -- and  tubelike artificial muscles
positioned on either side of the knee expand  and contract using
compressed air flow. A human tester was able to do 90  squats in 90
seconds while holding a 16-kilogram barbell on his shoulders 
without breaking a sweat. This latest artificial body enhancement is
a big  improvement on previous versions, says Ephrahim Garcia, a
mechanical and  aerospace engineer at Cornell University: "This is
novel because it's  sensing over the entire soft-tissue interface of
the body. You need intense  amounts of computation to pull it off."
The robotic pants are being tested  at Nagasaki University for use
as a physical therapy tool for bed-ridden  patients. Researchers are
also testing a mechanical glove that enables the  user to pick up a
cup of coffee just by tensing his or her upper arm  muscles. "We're
trying to reduce fatigue and eventually help disabled  people," says
UC Irvine civil engineer Maria Feng. Widespread testing of  the
devices is expected in the next two years, with commercial rollout
in  five to ten years. (Technology Review Feb 2004)

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