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Future Tech: 

Smart trousers to offer virtual muscle

The finished smart trousers probably won't look this stylish. And that's saying something.

The finished smart trousers probably won’t look this stylish. And that’s saying something.

Putting the word ‘smart’ in front of anything has become so commonplace, it feels a bit like a lazy marketer’s dream. Some products are just born dumb, and gosh-darnit, that’s how we like them. Not every accessory needs a PhD, and indeed some things would really be better off without.

But smart trousers – these thoroughly deserves the diploma and mortarboard from the University of smarts for making the world a better place, and potentially improving the lives of millions along the way. Ironically, although the so-called ‘smart trousers’ imply some kind of inherent intelligence, the truth is that they’re far more braun than brains.

 The trousers could eventually replace stairlifts and wheelchairs 
An upcoming research project from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, the smart trousers will contain artificial muscles in order to increase the mobility of disabled and frail individuals. They could even eventually replace stairlifts and wheelchairs, potentially making a whole lot of people far more mobile.

The clothes will incorporate artificial muscles created from smart materials and plasticky molecules which react to the situation. The wearer can be monitored from control systems that work with the owner’s own muscles, only stepping in to offer assistance when required.

“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,” said Doctor Jonathan Rossiter, who is leading the university’s £2 million project.

“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.”

But the team won’t get instant results. It’s a three year project, and won’t begin until July – which means 40 more months of staring at your trousers screaming “why aren’t you smarter?”

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