Motorized knee can make you run faster

December 22, 2009 by Lin Edwards weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists at the Tsukuba University in Japan have come up with a motorized knee you can attach to your leg to make you run faster and use less muscle power.

The motorized knee comes in a 5 kg kit, part of which straps to your leg, and part of which (the control unit and battery) is worn as a backpack. The device is not designed to help people who are physically handicapped, but is designed to support the flex of the knee for people who just want to run more efficiently. The strap-on knee assistant allows runners to jog steadily at 7.5 km/h, but using 30% less muscle power than they would use for unassisted running. The researchers do not say how much of the saving in muscle power is offset by carrying the 5 kg weight of the gadget.

The research team who developed the device is confident it will be commercialized within the next three years, and that there is a market for it. There are similar devices that help the physically handicapped walk, but the new gadget will be much smaller and lighter by the time it comes to market, and is intended for healthy people who just want to run more efficiently.

Motorized knee can make you run faster

The motorized knee has a small motor that helps flex the knee, a sensor that detects the degree of flexing of the knee, and a safety lever.

One apparent flaw in the idea seems to be that most joggers seem to jog precisely because they want to build up muscle power and get fit, and so the device would in effect mean they would have to jog for longer to get the same benefit to their level. This may make the gadget a contender for next year's "Ignobel" awards . It might possibly be useful for people recovering from a or other knee operation, but if so, the researchers don't mention the possibility, and have not designed it for rehabilitation or other medical purposes.

Tsukuba University also developed the Robot Suit HAL, (Hybrid Assistive Limb) which is a cyborg-type that can help paralysed people learn to walk. It is also responsible for the Yotaro baby simulator.

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6 comments

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danman5000
5 / 5 (1) Dec 22, 2009
This sounds pretty neat, though I doubt casual joggers would use it. The feeling of exertion and building muscle is something that runners enjoy, and as mentioned in the article this would be limited by the device. Still, this would be useful in other situations. Outfit your policemen with it and they can outrun or outlast criminals in pursuits. Use it to help people that need to walk a lot for their job get less tired (mailmen, tour guides, etc.). I'd want one just to look like a cyborg. The big backpack would be cumbersome though. All of these human-machine interfaces (among other techs like electric cars) suffer from the same problem of large batteries - if we can develop more compact and efficient batteries, a whole new world of possibility opens up.
podizzle
5 / 5 (1) Dec 22, 2009
healthy people dont' want to run faster? i jog every day and i'd like to jog faster everyday. running by the bike riders would be hilarious
CarolinaScotsman
not rated yet Dec 22, 2009
I have an artificial knee and would be interested in finding out how much help, if any, this device would be for me. If in addition to boosting output it also provides some support for the joint, that would be ideal.
frogz
not rated yet Dec 23, 2009
The applications can extend to runners/joggers in a sports therapy purpose. An injured knee/leg often will be weaker for some time. Utilizing an assist for the injured leg and weaning it slowly off the assist would allow the runner/jogger less downtime and more time maintaining and improving. The backpack could be replaced by a secondary leg assist that could actually generate a short charge for the actual leg assisting.
nevermark
not rated yet Dec 23, 2009
I would think the military could find infinite uses for anything that made soldiers more physically powerful or efficient.
Bob_Kob
not rated yet Dec 27, 2009
Well, if it can be used to assist running, then it should also be able to impede it. Put the motors in reverse or something to make it more difficult to jog thereby increasing work done during a session.

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