Smart pneumatic knee brace automatically pumps up the support
In order to minimize the chances of injury, many athletes wear a brace to help support a particularly vulnerable knee joint. Exoskeleton manufacturer C-EXO is taking that idea further, with a "smart" pneumatically activated knee brace.
Known as the E-Knee, the device has most of the standard features you would expect. These include flexible support bars running vertically along either side, a gel-ring stabilizer that sits around the kneecap, and a main body made of an elastic, breathable fabric.
What sets it apart, however, are its five airbags – two above the knee joint, two below it, and one around it. These are connected via silicone hosing to a control box which is magnetically attached to the top of the brace. That box contains an ARM control chip, an IMU (inertial measurement unit), an electric pump, and a lithium battery.
Once powered up, the IMU continuously detects movements of the knee. The control box instantaneously responds by selectively pumping air in or out of the five airbags, varying the amount of pressure they apply to the joint. According to C-EXO, this setup allows the E-Knee to consistently deliver the maximum amount of support – along with the most comfortable fit – regardless of the knee position.
The whole thing tips the scales at a claimed 320 g (11.3 oz), and should reportedly be good for about 35 hours of use per wired or wireless charge of its battery. When the brace needs to be washed, its control box can simply be pulled off.
Plans call for the E-Knee to soon be the subject of a Kickstarter campaign – potential backers can register for updates via the link below. We're told that pledges should start at US$159 for a single brace, or $289 for a pair. Those prices include a charging cable, but not a wireless charger.