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This Boot Exoskeleton Was Made for Walking Efficiently

Stephen Thrift

Humans were born to walk and run on two feet, but that doesn't mean we can't use a little help now and then. A new boot-like exoskeleton device created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University takes a high-tech approach to putting a spring in your step, reducing the energy consumed by walking. It doesn't use any power, relying instead on a spring that stretches a small amount when your foot lands, then releases that energy when you start a new step, assisting your calf muscles.

The bulky, industrial-looking exoskeleton isn't likely to make it into any athletic wear just yet — this is just a proof of concept showing that no external power source is necessary to streamline or assist a person's natural movements. The researchers claim walking using the device uses 7 percent less energy. That doesn't sound like much, but considering how efficient walking is to begin with for our body, it's actually quite a feat. Others have been trying for decades to achieve what CMU's Steven Collins and his team demonstrate here. As the paper, published in the journal Nature Biomechanics, concludes: "While evolution, growth and learning have driven efficiency, improvements are yet possible."

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