When we hear about exoskeletons, chances are that we either think of something that allows disabled users to walk again, or that gives wearers extraordinary strength. The European Union AXO Suit project, however, is aimed at creating something else – an exoskeleton that simply allows seniors to stay active.
Unlike the case with some other exoskeletons, the AXO Suit would only be put on for brief periods while specific activities were being performed. These could include things like gardening, delivering groceries to other less mobile seniors, or going for walks. Motors in the suit would provide a power boost to the wearer's arm and leg movements, not unlike the fashion in which electric bicycles augment riders' pedaling power.
In order not to make the technology too intimidating, however, the amount of electrical assistance provided would range from just 30 to 50 percent – so no lifting of engine blocks would be possible, or even desired.
Additionally, it wouldn't be referred to as robotic technology. Instead, so as not to turn off any technophobic older users, it would simply be called a "tool".
The three-year AXO Suit project began last October, and is made up of eight European research institutes and tech companies. Although no technical details have been released yet, it is hoped that a finished product will be commercially available in five years.