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Robotics Research
Posted on April 04, 2018

Lightweight exoskeleton to aid skiers

Roam Robotics has announced the imminent availability of their first product, a mobile exoskeleton that will help to improve endurance, safety, and experience for skiers and snowboarders. The device will target the sixteen million U.S. adults currently engaged in snow sports, inclusive of the millions of adults age 45 and older that will benefit the most from the support provided by this product, especially those with knee or muscle fatigue issues. For more information see the IDTechEx report on mobile robots.
 
Roam's device promises to extend your ski day, access longer challenging terrain, make stronger turns, or simply enjoy the sport without the pain. All the while keeping your knees safer.
 
The product is comprised of two braces that are strapped to the user's thighs and connected to the ski boots. The skier also wears a small backpack that carries the power source and device controls. In total, it weighs only a few pounds.
 
Within the braces are fabric actuators that have been constrained to create the necessary shape to support the individual action of the skier when needed. They essentially act as intelligent shock absorbers. Notably, the product only provides support when needed, and is otherwise passive and unobtrusive.
 
The physics behind human motion is very complicated but the concepts are simple - power is good and weight is bad. Roam's unique style of actuator allows for more power into the body for less weight than any system developed to date, enabling high-end performance benefits.
 
"Historically, exoskeletons have been large, bulky, and expensive," according to Tim Swift, CEO and Founder of Roam Robotics. "By creating a product essentially out of fabric and air, we can disrupt the relationship between weight and power, creating a lightweight device that can provide significant support to a wide spectrum of skiers."
 
This technical approach also means the product from Roam is significantly less expensive than traditional exoskeletons. The hardware is powered by software that uses machine learning to identify the behaviors of the user in real time to create a seamless application of power. The experience provided by this unique lightweight hardware and AI-powered software allows the device to respond how you expect; intuitively responding to the specific needs of the skier, balancing weight and power.
 
"In the short term, we are helping people push their personal boundaries while skiing or snowboarding," according to Nikhil Dhongade, Chief Business Officer at Roam. "This is true for people that have knee issues or muscle fatigue, or for anyone that simply wants to improve endurance and augment the experience. In the long term, Roam wishes to develop powered devices to meet the needs of consumer applications where the body places limits on the experience."
 
To date, Roam has tested their skiing product on a wide variety of users, ranging from to middle-age part-time skiers to former Olympic skiers to younger skiers. A very limited number of devices will be available for the 2018-2019 ski season, with general availability planned for the following year.
 
Source and top image: Roam Robtics
Learn more at the next leading event on the topic: Sensors USA 2018 External Link on 14 - 15 Nov 2018 at Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, USA hosted by IDTechEx.