Scientists have created an exoskeleton without any electronic motors, heavy batteries and pneumatic actuators called the Sensorimotor Enhancing Suit (SEnS). The soft upper body vest is made out of flexible fabrics and enhances sensorimotor functions by reducing the load on muscles in the upper limbs.

The goal with SEnS was to create a soft and light exoskeleton that was inexpensive, easy-to-wear and simple to maintain. While hard, robotic exoskeletons like Fortis, XOS 2 and HULC can help a person carry immense loads, SEnS is targeted towards improving sensorimotor performance by reducing muscle loads at specific points.

"We calculated the movement of the human muscle using a computer and measured the maximum point of human sensorimotor function," says Associate Professor Yuichi Kurita at the Institute of Engineering at Hiroshima University. "SEnS is designed to improve sensorimotor performance during use."

The team, which included members from Hiroshima University, Hokkaido University, Smart Support Technologies Inc., and Georgia Institute of Technology, also studied how differences in voluntary muscle activation affected a person's force perception capability. The team noticed an improvement in overall sensorimotor capability when SEnS was used to lessen muscle loads.

It is hoped that the development will help improve the quality of life for the elderly and for those who work under extreme conditions. Future plans include creating made-to-order SEnS exoskeletons that factor individual muscle movements using the technique.

A paper describing the research was published as proceedings of the 5th Augmented Human International Conference.

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