The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard received $2.6 million in DARPA funding to advance the development of a smart suit to help improve physical endurance for soldiers in the field. The novel wearable system would potentially delay the onset of fatigue, enabling soldiers to walk longer distances, and potentially help the body avoid injuries when carrying heavy loads.
The proposed suit will be made from soft wearable assistive devices that integrate several novel Wyss technologies. One technology is a stretchable sensor that would monitor the body’s biomechanics without the need for the typical rigid components that often interfere with motion.
This system could also potentially detect the onset of fatigue. Additionally, one of the technologies in the suit may help the wearer maintain balance by providing low level mechanical vibrations that boost the body’s sensory functions.
The new suit will be designed to overcome several of the problems typically associated with current wearable systems, including their large power requirements and rigid overall structures, which restrict normal movement and can be uncomfortable.
While the DARPA project is focused on assisting and protecting soldiers in the field, the technologies under development can have many other applications. For instance, similar soft wearable devices could possible increase endurance in the elderly and help improve mobility for people with physical disabilities.
Also working on the project will be several members of the Wyss Advanced Technology Team who will provide expertise in product development to ensure the rapid completion of prototypes. They will oversee the testing of prototypes in the Wyss Institute’s biomechanics lab, using motion capture capabilities to measure the impact of the suit on specific muscles and joints.