1. ITV Report

UK scientists develop 'smart trousers' to aid mobility

Scientists said the 'intelligent clothing' device could help frail elderly people with their mobility. Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

A British team of robotic experts have developed close-fitting 'smart trousers' which are designed to assist the mobility of frail elderly and disabled people.

The team at Bristol University said the wearable 'intelligent clothing' device, which employs artificial muscles to aid movement, could even replace stairlifts and wheelchairs.

Researchers said it could help vulnerable people avoid falls, provide the added strength needed to move between sitting and standing, and make it easier to climb stairs.

This is the first time soft robotics technologies have been used to address the many rehabilitation and healthcare needs in one single type of wearable device.

Many existing devices used by people with mobility problems can cause or aggravate conditions such as poor circulation, skin pressure damage or susceptibility to falls, each of which is a drain on health resources.

Wearable soft robotics has the potential to improve many of these problems and reduce healthcare costs at the same time too."

– Dr Jonathan Rossiter

The device will use artificial muscles made from smart materials and reactive plastic-like molecules capable of exerting great forces.

Control systems will be incorporated that monitor the wearer and work with the body's own muscles to provide assistance when needed.

The three-year project, due to start in July, is part of a £5.3 million funding programme from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to support the development of assistive and rehabilitative devices.