originated at the cross-roads between material science and design
Fundamentally, we believe in the potential of matter and material exploration, and this transpires
into everything we do. We like to explore the possibilities of a given material and the properties that
emerge when arranged in certain ways, making textile-based materials into metamaterials, looking
into natural and biological shapes and principles for inspiration. Thus, we have developed a library
of different geometries, structures and material arrangements that can perform movements such as
pull, push, bend, or stiffen.
These elements can then be applied to the body in various ways and combinations to perform
specific functions such as assisting or preventing the bending of a joint. Torque, forces, anchoring
points and various parameters are indeed of the utmost importance, but so are usability, comfort,
acceptance and ease. By using a textile platform to construct a powered garment, we designed a
soft exoskeleton for everyman.
The key question was how to bring about a paradigm shift in powered assistive technology by reducing complexity and weight while empowering and freeing the user. Through personal experience, we understood the potential for an albeit simple yet meaningful solution. The first key aspect was to break away from traditional hard frame powered exoskeletons by using soft-robotics, where flexible structures transmit force through tension or by transforming swelling and inflation into movement. In this, they are more versatile while drastically reducing complexity and costs. However, state-of-the-art fluid-driven robots depend on a pump for active actuation.
This tether represents a significant drawback for their future application in exoskeletons for walking.
The second key aspect was thus to eliminate the external pump and increase energy efficiency: our
devices are powered by the user’s own gait. We did this by placing chambers filled with fluid below
the foot of the user. When the foot hits the floor, the fluid is transferred to the bioinspired hydraulic
circuit and powers it. The result is a lightweight self-powered garment without batteries and motors:
our hydrodynamic apparel.