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Future Tech: 

Ankle Exo makes walking easier, without a battery

These boots were made for walking. And walking's what they'll do - 7% more efficiently, thanks to the exoskeleton.

These boots were made for walking. And walking’s what they’ll do – 7% more efficiently, thanks to the exoskeleton.

The trouble with augmenting yourself with a metal body, Terminator style – aside from the unflattering attention you’ll attract when out and about – is that our batteries just aren’t up to the task of powering artificial limbs for extended periods. This is understandable – we humans still haven’t been able to reduce our overnight charge time to less than six-eight hours. Despite this, scientists at Carnegie Mellon have come up with an unpowered exoskeleton for the ankle which reduces the energy spent on walking by seven percent.

Seven percent may seem like peanuts, but it does mean that in The Proclaimers’ hit ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)’, the Scottish duo would be able to walk an additional 35 miles of their promised ‘500 more’ free of charge. We really only understand distances if they’re explained via Celtic rock analogies.

On a more serious note, that seven percent can also make a huge difference when we look at possible future directions for the device – from prosthetics to help the disabled walk, to a military application, allowing soldiers to carry heavier equipment long distance.

So how does the Ankle Exo work? It acts as an extra calf muscle, using just a spring and mechanical ratchet that adjusts its grip on the spring, depending on the motion of the foot. It weighs just a pound too, meaning that the gains from the literal spring in your step won’t be undone by the strain of carrying it around with you.

The design is so simple, that Steven Collins, one of the three inventors behind the Ankle Exo, told Popular Mechanics that the tech could have been designed as long as a century ago – although the carbon fiber it uses would need to have been replaced with a lightweight wood.

You can see the Ankle Exo in action in the video below.

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