A group of researchers have developed robotic technologies for clothing in the form of smart trousers, with 'artificial muscles' built-in to help people with mobility problems get around more easily.
Developed by a group of scientists led by the University of Bristol, the project - named "The Right Trousers" - was made possible thanks to a £2 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The smart trousers are unique in that they are lightweight, comfortable and able to work in collaboration with the body, according to the University.
We are all going to need smart clothing to help us be mobile for longer. It is easy to see how these will become ubiquitous in the near future
The premise of the smart trousers is that they work in helping vulnerable people avoid falls by supporting them while walking, and giving them added bionic strength to move between sitting and standing positions. They also help people climb stairs.
The technology enables easier dressing, the researchers claim, as the clothing changes size when you want to take it off and reacts to the environment, offering a cooling function in the summer and warming in the winter.
Prof Jonathan Rossiter, professor of robotics in the Department of Engineering Mathematics and the University's Robotics Laboratory, led the project and will demonstrate the new technologies at the British Science Festival, taking place in Hull later this week.
Rossiter and his team of collaborators also shared a mock-up of what the final trousers will look like.
"At the start of the project in 2015, the mere prospect of power trousers generated significant interest. Now we are showing the actual technologies and clothing developed.
"Our moving and hands-on demonstrations really put the technologies in context and show their potential. We are all going to need smart clothing to help us be mobile for longer. It is easy to see how these will become ubiquitous in the near future".
The researchers believe that as people are living longer, and as the world faces an aging population it is desirable that we are kept as active and independent for as long as possible to maintain the quality of life and cognitive health.
"Unfortunately, we become less mobile with age and reach the point where mobility around the house becomes difficult," said the university. "The Right Trousers is [therefore] a pioneering project, which will eventually enable people with mobility impairments, disabilities, and age-related weaknesses to live independently and with dignity."
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