Researchers at UCLA’s Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology (CASIT) developed a vest containing accelerometers across the shoulders and pneumatic balloon actuators to provide a portable, wearable aid for people who lost their sense of balance due to injury or disease and have to learn again how to walk.
Their vest measures how the upper body rotates and tilts as a person walks. If the torso wobbles, accelerometers on the shoulders detect those movements. The control system in the vest inflates various silicone balloons, which are 25 millimeters in diameter on the outer edge.
These balloons are placed around the upper torso like rip cage, shoulders and chest which will inflate with various pressures on different locations indicating the un-balance to the body and to correct it.
The balance vest could potentially complement or even replace rehabilitation sessions on treadmills and parallel bars, a stationary and often cumbersome process.
The patented actuator, which is the core of this system, has a specially bonded membrane that allows the balloon to be inflated with high pressure, ensuring that a wearer will feel the push and providing almost instantaneous feedback.
Wearable technology research for medical applications is one of the most rewarding sectors, potentially rewarding from a business perspective but even more rewarding in terms of improving the quality of life for people with the most needs, people who have been disadvantaged.