Scientists have developed soft, wearable rehabilitative devices that can help elderly and disabled people move with comfort and safety.
According to the researchers from University of Bristol in the UK the lives of thousands of people with mobility issues could be transformed with the research.
The FREEHAB project will develop soft, wearable rehabilitative devices with a view to helping elderly and disabled people walk and move from sitting to a standing position in comfort and safety.
Rehabilitation is vital for patients, but outcomes are hampered by a lack of easy-to-use dynamic tools to help therapists accurately analyse mobility performance and devise effective programmes.
As rehabilitation increasingly takes place in patients' homes in the absence of a therapist, better ways to support in-home mobility and training are needed.
The materials from which the artificial muscles are made include 3D-printable electroactive gel materials, and soft but strong pneumatic chains that change shape when inflated and can exert considerable force.
"Together with integrated sensing technology, we will make devices that physiotherapists can use to accurately pinpoint limitations in their patients' movements, thus enabling them to plan personalised training programmes," said Jonathan Rossiter, from University of Bristol in the UK.
"We will also make simpler devices that the patient can use to enhance their mobility activities and exercise with confidence when a therapist is not with them," said Rossiter.
To develop the project, the researchers will work with physiotherapists, and with people who have undergone physiotherapy for their mobility problems.