Can technology help me run faster?
Is there any technology which can help us run faster or be stronger? Like the iron-man suit?”
Chris Smith put this question to Imperial College's Stuart Higgins
Stuart - So we’re talking about the iron man suit from the movies.
You put this suit on and you can fly around and it gives you extra strength and the ability to do certain things. This is actually a really interesting area of research - people are starting to develop exoskeletons.
The idea that you have a powered framework that you can stand into that will support your body as you make certain motions and there are a couple of reasons for doing this. Some people want to use it in order to help people who do a lot of repetitive tasks. If you’re a worker in a warehouse lifting boxes everyday moving them around, then this is something that’s going to help reduce the strain on certain joints and reduce the strain on your lower back. It’s also very useful if you’ve lost certain mobility due to a stroke or something, then it can help support you and encourage you to do it.
There are a few examples around by certain companies. There are still some challenges. One of the big problems is power - everything comes back down to batteries nowadays. In order to have motion you need quite a lot of power and you need certain battery packs and that limits the amount of movement you can do at a certain time.
Actually it’s quite complicated to replicate the motion of certain joints in the body. So if you got a ball and socket joint, that motion can be quite difficult to recover in a mechanical system so how do you design a system that gives you the same range of motion but then doesn’t do things that you don’t want it to do as well?
Chris - Is that a thumbs up. Is it possible or isn’t it possible?
Stuart - It is possible and they’re on the market now. If you have £10,000 you can buy yourself a exoskeleton suit that will allow you to lift boxes more easily.
Chris - Carolin?
Carolin - But we’re not at the point of flying yet then?
Stuart - We’re not a the point of flying yet. You can get a jet pack. You can get certain jet packs and I think there are a few examples recently. My favourites the water jet pack, which still means you need a water supply pumping water down towards the ground but that does you those kind of basic capabilities.