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Wearable Sensors to Better Tendon Measure for Exosuit Users

Researchers have developed a novel wearable sensor known as a shear wave tensiometer. The tensiometer allows researchers to directly quantify tendon force by observing how the tendon’s vibratory characteristics alter when it is loaded, as it occurs during movement.

The findings emphasise the significance of tailoring an exosuit to its user for it to be more useful in real-world situations. It can help people wearing an exosuit recover from an injury or provide extra assistance when hauling big things because the wearable can directly monitor changes in loading on muscle and tendon tissue caused by an exosuit. Furthermore, the simple, non-invasive gadget can be readily attached to the skin over a tendon.

“This study emphasises the necessity of directly measuring muscle and tendon forces to guarantee that an exosuit is creating the intended biomechanical changes,” said Dylan Schmitz, a UW-Madison mechanical engineer, NSF Graduate Research Fellow, and Co-first author of the publication.

The device can aid in measuring tendon force, allowing the exosuit to provide more precise support. The instruments can also produce the desired impact on an individual wearer. Because according to experts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Harvard University, only some people who wear a wearable robot today will immediately profit from the help.

The scientific team rose to the occasion, conducting rigorous biomechanical trials in the lab. These technologies are portable and worn on the body, allowing the researchers to undertake additional outdoor testing to establish real-world practicality.

“Different people are going to react to an exosuit in different ways, so we can’t assume that there is a one-size-fits-all exosuit controller that will work for everyone,” Schmitz said.

NSF Programme Director Grace Hwang commented on the research, “this is the first study to directly measure the Achilles tendon force on people wearing an exosuit while walking in an available outside setting. This knowledge can help people with mobility impairments with locomotion and is a key step in understanding the usefulness of personalised wearable robotic systems.”

The study was funded by two grants from the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Programme and two grants from the NSF’s Disability and Rehabilitation Engineering programme in the United States. The findings have been reported in Science Robotics.

Wearable technology has played a significant part in health technology. A new Curtin University study used wearable sensors to help children with cerebral palsy. It was mentioned that the sensor would be sensitive enough to detect even minor movements in children with cerebral palsy that would otherwise go undetected in other fitness devices.

The solution was created as part of a study to combat the fact that young children spend 96 per cent of their day sitting or lying down. Cerebral palsy is the most prevalent form of physical handicap in childhood, impairing a child’s ability to move significantly, resulting in poor physical health and an increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic illnesses.

There is a need to create better alternatives to allow these youngsters to walk more regularly because it improves their short and long-term health. The first critical step is to establish an accurate mechanism for sensing movement, as many present commercial products are calibrated for neurotypical people and are insensitive to little gestures.

Additionally, engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Stanford University have developed a tiny, autonomous device with a flexible sensor to assess the changing size of tumours beneath the skin. The non-invasive, battery-powered device is sensitive to one-tenth of a millimetre (10 micrometres). Moreover, it can wirelessly transfer results to a smartphone app in real-time at the push of a button.

According to the researchers, the device labelled FAST, which stands for Flexible Autonomous Sensor measuring Tumours, is an innovative, inexpensive, hands-free, and accurate technique for testing the efficacy of anti-cancer drugs. On a bigger scale, it could pave the way for promising new cancer therapy options.

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