Roam Robotics is on a mission to develop exoskeletons for all kinds of activities, but its first prototype product is aimed at skiers. The new ski exoskeleton Roam is showing off can help bolster your technique and give you more time out on the slopes, without getting in the way of your fun.
The suit has two parts, a backpack that provides power and processing, and two strap-on exoskeleton parts for the legs, intended to offer support to your knees and quads. You can use it for both skiing and snowboarding, Roam says, though this is still a prototype – the final design might look different to the pictures you see here.
Through a combination of sensors and software calculations, the exoskeleton adjusts torque at the knee to support what your legs are already doing, and the accompanying app for Android and iOS lets you adjust just how much help the exoskeleton offers. Roam says it's like having "intelligent shock absorbers" on your legs.
Roam suggests the device could help advanced skiers push through harder turns and recover from injury more quickly, while helping casual and elderly skiers stay out on the slopes for longer – the exoskeleton takes on some of the strain on the legs, meaning the usual limb fatigue or pain associated with a day's skiing takes longer to set in.
At the end of the day you can fire up the app and check your performance statistics too, everything from top speed to the routes you took down the mountain. The app also lets users override some of the automatic torque and support settings that the exoskeleton applies by default.
It's worth emphasizing that this is still in development: Roam has penciled in January 2019 as a shipping date and its currently taking US$99 reservation deposits for a device it expects to retail for between $2,000 and $2,500.
Skiing is a good place to start with a consumer exoskeleton business though – it's a hobby enjoyed by people of all ages and levels of experience, and one where some extra leg support can really make a difference to how much fun it is. It's also an activity where people are already used to shelling out a chunk of cash for their gear.
If the ski exoskeleton can give people an extra hour or two on the slopes per day, that's going to seem a worthy investment for a lot of skiers – provided Roam makes the device comfortable to wear and easy to use.
This combination of robotics and human control certainly seems a better bet right now than letting robots take to the slopes themselves. Even the most advanced androids built so far struggle with the balance and positioning needed to get down a slope, as we saw at the Winter Olympics.
You can see a video of the prototype in action below.
Source: Roam Robotics
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