Researchers at the Institute of Science and Innovation in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Management (INEGI), in Porto, are developing a project that aims to “replace wanderers and crutches” and “reduce physical effort”, said the official.
Daniel Pina, head of the Mechalife project, explained that the idea came with the goal of “developing a system that would develop crutches and wanderers” and solve “the problem of reduced mobility”.
The project, which began to be developed this year by three teams from INEGI, Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto (FEUP), intends to create an exoskeleton [external structure that supports the body] for the lower limbs.
“Mechalife is an exoskeleton that goes from the waist to the feet and helps people move their lower limbs, and although the structure is heavy, it supports the weight itself, just like the walker and the crutches,” he said.
According to Daniel Pina, the equipment, mainly directed to the population over 65, is composed of electric motors that guarantee a autonomy of constant movement during five hours.
“The goal would be for people to use the exoskeleton during the day and at night to charge it, despite the equipment’s autonomy being five hours and the electric motors do not consume energy when the person is at rest,” he explained.
The INEGI teams, which have been working together with health professionals in the areas of rehabilitation medicine and orthopedics, are now building a “full-scale prototype” and are expected to begin making fully functional prototypes over the next two years.
For Daniel Pina, this equipment will allow people “not to waste so much energy and not get tired as much,” since “electric motors help in the movement of the legs.”
“We know that a person who uses a stroller or a crutch is unable to carry a tray with food or even hold a glass of water. The truth is that not having to hold the exoskeleton with their hands, people have greater freedom and autonomy, “he added.
The MEGALIFE project of INEGI was honored in September under the BIP Proof initiative, with a prize of 10,000 euros, with the support of the Amadeu Dias Foundation.