Soft wearable robots: a chance to connect the clinic with the community – 2017 Harvard Business School Symposium: Engineering & Entrepreneurship: Innovation in Healthcare

Conor Walsh, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Why are robots useful?

  • Safety – exploring Fukushima
  • Efficiency – Tesla factories
  • Exploration – Mars

But in these cases, they aren’t working with people – they are isolated.

Conor discussed how there is often a trade-off, with the more assistive a device is, the more restrictive it is.

Conor moved on to talk about how textile use might change this.

Soft Exosuit for Gait Rehabilitation

Focusing on the ankle joint, the textile lightweight structure is on the leg, with heavier components on the hips. Also has sensors to integrate and respond to the person.

Image result for Soft Exosuit for Gait Rehabilitation re-walk robotics

Partnering with Re-walk Robotics to commercialise this.

Image result for Soft Exosuit for Gait Rehabilitation rewalk robotics

Soft Devices for the Upper Extremity

Useful for stroke patients, spinal cord injury, ALS.

Instead of using motors and cables, they are looking to use inflatable materials – eg stretchy textiles, with balloons within – you can get various structure depending on the structure of the material.

Also showed an awesome example of a shoulder accentuator.

Textile sensors

To detect how people are moving. Silicone-textile hybrid sensors are highly flexible and resilient, making them excellent candidates for sensing body movement. More here.


Various materials at their site:

Competitions every year + instructional materials as well as workshops and outreach.

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