Back-saving underwear and the magic of assistive fabric

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The word “exosuit” conjures images of Tony Stark or any of a growing number of powered exoskeleton products from companies like Ekso Bionics and Sarcos. I’m bullish on the future of such devices in applications like construction, but it’s another kind of exosuit, one that doesn’t rely on power, that’s likelier to enter the market in a significant way. 

These exosuits are unpowered and low-profile, relying on elastics and biomechanics to ease to strain in lightweight, low-cost assistive devices that (unlike the copper-infused garbage peddled on infomercials) actually work. 

A new article in the Nature journal Scientific Reports describes one such device designed to be worn under the clothes and promising reduced fatigue in lower back muscles on the order of 29-47 percent. The article, “Low-Profile Elastic Exosuit Reduces Back Muscle Fatigue,” comes from researchers at Vanderbilt University. Led by Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Karl Zelik and recent Ph.D.

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New exhibit explores the science and technology behind assistive devices

KITCHENER — From prosthetic arms and legs to gadgets that can help you feel music, a new exhibit explores how science and technology can improve lives.

Human Plus: Real Lives + Engineering opens its doors at the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum on Friday, and hopes to get people thinking about how to create assistive devices that can help people.

“Universal design that is human centred is good design for everybody,” said James Jensen, supervisor of collections and exhibits at Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum.

“This exhibit is looking at how technology, both high-tech and low-tech, can be adapted to different circumstances. It’s a story I think we can all relate to.”

The exhibit was created by the New York Hall of Science in partnership with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It features several interactive displays that highlight a variety of engineering feats that push the boundaries of

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