Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed an exomuscle, meaning an artificial, additional muscle layer, made of fabric. “Myoshirt” is worn on the upper body and compensates for a lack of muscle strength and endurance. An algorithm uses sensors integrated into the fabric to recognize the movement the wearer wants to perform and how much force is needed to do it. Based on this information, a motor shortens a cable integrated in the fabric running parallel to the muscles, hence supporting the movement. In a test, the endurance time of participants with muscle weakness was increased by 60% and of healthy participants by about one third.
In the future, medically tested, digital wearables could offer a more accessible alternative to established therapy devices that are already being utilized in clinics. However, technical aids supporting patients in their everyday lives or enabling them to exercise at home remain relatively rare. According to the researchers, Myoshirt, too, must become smaller and lighter before it can be sold on the market. Nevertheless, one can expect that in the coming years an increasing number of products will be available for physically impaired people, contributing to a more fit and healthy society.
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