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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