Programmable Soft Orthotics

The long-term goal of this collaborative project is to develop programmable active soft orthotics ("programmable second-skin") that can assist children with cerebral palsy in promoting normal gait development, by adapting and compensating for neuromuscular disorders. Such orthotics have the potential for impact in many ways: everyday locomotion assistance, out-patient rehabilitation, and reprogramming gait control in young children.

This project brings together concepts and expertise from childhood locomotion development, self-adapting modular robotics, and soft robotics, to tackle a challenging but important area.

Our collaborative group works on many aspects, from the design of specific targetted devices (ankle-foot orthotic), to the design of novel sensor-actuator materials, to studies of locomotion in young children. Some of the overarching objectives are: (1) lightweight clothing-like orthotics with soft actuators, sensors, and braces, that do not limit the inherent degrees of freedom of the leg (2) bio-inspired distributed design with many sensors and actuators that can sense and control multiple degrees of freedom in different ways (3) human-adaptive control, such that the orthotic works with the human leg (arm) compensating only as needed to guide the correct gait (task). We also interact closely with the cerebral palsy team at Children's Hospital.

Investigators: The project was initiated by Eugene Goldfield (Children's Hospital/Wyss), Radhika Nagpal and Chih-Han Yu (SEAS/Wyss), Leia Stirling (Wyss), and Rob Wood (SEAS/Wyss). The team has now grown to include many more faculty, Wyss staff, postdocs, graduate students and clinicians.

Funding:This work is funded by the Wyss Institute, specifically the Anticipatory Medical Devices Platform and the Bio-inspired Robotics Platform. It is also funded by an NSF Cyber Physical Systems Grant (Programmable Second Skin for Re-Educating Injured Nervous Systems,2009).



Article by Children's Hospital on the Second-skin Project (2010)
A second Article on new ideas in the Second-skin Project (2011)