Better, faster stronger: NASA looks to improve its wearable robotic arm
NASA is looking for partners to help it improve Armstrong, its wearable robotic device that augments strength and flexibility in the wearer’s shoulder and upper arm.
Originally designed to help rehabilitate survivors of traumatic brain injury, the soft, wearable upper-extremity garment, cleverly named Armstrong, controls the shoulder and elbow to either augment the strength of an able-bodied person or position an unresponsive limb during physical therapy. It features adaptable control software that makes it easy to customize therapy routines, with real-time feedback available to therapists.
Armstrong activates the shoulder and elbow joints using a Bowden cable transmission system that uses actuators on the torso to pull on synthetic tendons that cross the shoulder and elbow joints to create the desired movements. The technology has been available to license for space, medical, industrial and military applications, but now NASA wants improve the design of Armstrong “to create a fully customizable device whose multi-domain technology will improve life on Earth as well as help contribute to astronaut safety and effectiveness,” the space agency said in opportunity notice.
By extending and enhancing Armstrong’s current capabilities related to limb range of motion, control, customization of assistance and biofeedback, NASA could create a more advanced device to improve space mission performance and decrease injuries and fatigue. An advanced device would also better help rehabilitate the neural pathways of those with neurological injuries and augment safety and efficiency for industrial and construction workers.
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