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Smithsonian Arts+Industries Building Talk & Demo | Tell Me More: Our Future Bodies


Tell Me More invites you to explore the creation and function of groundbreaking inventions like Exosuit through live demonstrations. The Smithsonian Arts+Industries Building is pulling back the curtains to help you take a part in the discovery of how Exosuit works and can aid our futures.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 1.71 billion people have musculoskeletal conditions worldwide. Ever-changing advancements in technology have the potential to enhance our overall standards of living. As our population gets older, researchers and technologists are creating ways to extend and support the capabilities of the body. Robotic exoskeletons and exosuits are futuristic ideas in the present where robot technology can increase our human abilities and complement the natural biomechanics of the human musculoskeletal system.

A team of researchers at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences & Wyss Institute at Harvard University have developed soft wearable robots that can be used for assisting and rehabilitating people from diseases such as stroke or Parkinson’s Disease, assisting the elderly in maintaining and restoring gait, or help boost productivity and reduce injury potential in the workplace.

When worn on the lower body, Exosuit could help you walk or run faster, carry a heavier load, or walk farther by reducing the amount of energy used. For patients rehabilitating from stroke or other diseases, it can help aid movement and recovery in the clinic, community, and home. A bioinspired approach, whether it measures your muscle movement or how you walk and run, means the exosuit can respond to your individual needs to help with dynamic tasks.

Another biosuit example is this soft robotic glove. This glove has inflatable chambers that gently bend and straighten the fingers, providing the stretching and repetitive exercise needed to restore flexibility and recover lost hand function, such as after a stroke. Low pressure and comfortable materials make this device safe and desirable for repeated use. Feedback collected from sensors in the glove can be sent to an occupational therapist, who can remotely modify the rehabilitation program and assess progress in real time. Those same sensor signals can be used to facilitate “exer-gaming,” to help make the thousands of repetitions needed to improve function more interesting and engaging.

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