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XoSoft - Soft modular exoskeleton to assist people with mobility impairments

Together with their European partners, ZHAW researchers are developing an intelligent assistive walking device that can harden or soften, depending on the movement made.

Many people experience varying degrees of mobility impairment due to an accident or afflictions of old age. Assistive devices play a pivotal role in their lives and impact on their ability to live independently and perform basic tasks of daily living. Yet most assistive devices, such as powered wheel chairs, do not encourage or support the activation of legs, which is essential to prevent further atrophy. An international, multidisciplinary consortium of researchers from nine organisations and seven European countries has therefore set out to develop, within the framework of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, a novel solution: a wearable, intelligent clothing system named XoSoft.

Initial Position

Between 2000 and 2050, the older population (80 years +) is projected to almost quadruple from approximately 100 million to 395 million people worldwide. Many people experience varying degrees of mobility impairment due to an accident or afflictions of old age. Assistive devices play a pivotal role in their lives and impact on their ability to live independently and perform basic tasks of daily living. There are currently 40 million people in Europe who cannot walk without an aid. Yet most assistive devices, such as powered wheel chairs, do not encourage or support the activation of legs. XoSoft should answer the need of these and other user groups for low to moderate mobility assistance. The exoskeleton is developed by a consortium of five research groups and three companies with EU project experience in exoskeleton / assistive orthotics development.

Objective

The overall aim of this multidisciplinary research action is to develop a soft, modular, lower limb exoskeleton that elderly and disabled people with mobility impairments can wear to increase their mobility and to assist their leg strength and support.

XoSoft will employ smart soft robotics, biomimetic controlled actuation and connected health data feedback and interface.

Methods and Procedure

A core feature of XoSoft is that it follows a user centred design approach. The figure below illustrates the XoSoft design and development approach, which is subdivided into nine Work Packages. User requirements and design specifications are  established before concept technology development commences.

The design is realised in the selection of technologies, which are developed based on their ability to deliver the user centred design solution. Finally, the mature prototype will be evaluated in clinical and home trials.

Project partners

  • Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IT)
  • Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (ES)
  • Össur hf (IS)
  • University of Limerick (IE)
  • ZHAW Institut für Mechatronische Systems (CH)
  • accelopment AG (CH)
  • Roessingh
  • Saxion University of Applied Sciences (NL)
  • Geriatrie-Zentrum Erlangen (DE)
  • Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia

Project Organisation

Publications and Reports