This item of apparel has been dubbed ‘the right trousers’ in a nod to the Wallace and Gromit animation The Wrong Trousers in which Wallace develops a pair of techno slacks.
The ‘smart’ trousers are being developed by a team from the University of Bristol and feature artificial muscles that can give frail and elderly people bionic strength in their legs. These muscles are actually air-field bubbles of plastic that can raise a leg from a seated to a standing position.
The trousers will provide extra support and could boost joint strength by five to ten percent. Lead researcher Jonathan Rossiter, a professor of robotics at the University of Bristol, said the trousers would give elderly individuals more independence and confidence.
The cyber clothing was recently on display at the British Science Festival at the University of Hull. The umbrella term for this type of innovation is soft robotics and involves a number of technologies such as nanoparticle science, functional 3-D printing, smart material development and artificial muscle technology.
Next Research Steps
The technology is not ready for implementation just yet. The team behind the project reckon it could be about 10 years before the elderly are wearing robotic trousers as there are numerous challenges to tackle before then.
The next research steps will be to team up with prosthetic device companies and to work with clinicians.
Professor Rossiter also said the technology could be used to create ‘smart’ shirts for people with upper body muscle problems.