Exoskeletons, also referred to as exosuits, powered-armor, or exo frames, are wearable external frames that offer extra support and enhance a person’s biomechanical capabilities. Think Iron Man from the Avengers, but in real life. The exoskeleton acts as a strength amplifier that augments physical performance or a corrective device for restoring mobility.
Some people believe that exoskeletons are a new “thing”. However, this technology has been in existence since 1890 but has only gained more traction in recent years due to accelerated technology developments. The early model, designed and patented by Nicholas Yagn (3), was a spring-operated device that enhanced the user’s ability to run and jump.
Today, exoskeletons have wide applications and are used in the military, medical, and construction fields. In the medical industry, physical therapists use them as locomotive assistance and gait training devices for patients who have a condition or injury that affects mobility. While in the construction industry, they are primarily used to help workers with their upper extremity mobility by reducing strain and increasing productivity.
There are two types of exoskeletons, powered and passive. A powered exoskeleton contains electric motors, levers, hydraulics, and other technologies that enable limb mobility with increased endurance and strength. It works by sensing the wearer’s motions, sending signals to the motors, and offering the necessary support. A passive exoskeleton differs from a powered exoskeleton because it is purely mechanical. However, they both offer benefits such as shoulder, waist, or thigh support. Additionally, it offers movement assistance when lifting heavy items. Powered exoskeletons are mostly used in military and physical therapy, while passive exoskeletons are more commonly used in construction and other industrial industries.