12 Sep 2013
Welcome to another “From the Lab” post here on our blog! Much of our lab work these days is broken up into two key areas of development, both of which are centered around mock-up devices that represent some of the core functionality we’re trying to implement with the ExMS-1. The goal, of course, is to eventually merge each of these parallel tracks of development into a single next-generation prototype.
The first area is the simpler of the two, and revolves around what I call the “interface mockup”. This device is a hand-built representation of the main pieces of the ExMS-1 which lie in contact with the wearer, with the actuator system replaced by a simple metal frame that can be pinned into a set posture. The parts of the mockup that conform to the user’s body (wrapping around the thorax and pelvis) are made out of a low-temperature thermoplastic that provides the main structural rigidity needed to convey support. In between the plastic and the user, we created a set of hook-and-loop mount points which let us try various combinations of padding material shapes and hardness values. The whole point of this mockup is to provide a wearer with the same sensations they would feel when wearing the ExMS-1, while allowing us the flexibility to easily alter the core components of the interface. This way, we hope to design the ExMS-1 to comfortably fit the widest variety of users in the largest range of postures possible.
The second development area focuses on the “functional mockup”: a device whose bulky, over-engineered appearance will belie the vital data it will provide. With a minimal interface (i.e. little padding), standard industrial actuators, and a modular design, this mockup is intended to test the limits of the biomechanical efficacy of the ExMS-1. We want to find the upper limits of what corrective forces are comfortable and effective for a user. With the earlier prototypes, we were limited by what actuators were already small/light enough to be worn and consumed minimal power. The functional mockup, much like the interface mockup, will be an easily-modified device that will allow us to better define the exact specs we need to target for the performance of the ExMS-1.
Thanks for reading!