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Soft, wearable, assistive garments for human empowerment

SWAG is one of four projects funded under the call HORIZON-CL4-2022-DIGITAL-EMERGING-02 - Digital and emerging technologies for competitiveness and fit for the Green Deal.  Its objective is to revolutionise the field of human motion assistance, focusing on the development of lower limb exosuits; soft, wearable, exoskeletal robots that can empower the lower body and core.

Current challenges in human motion assistance include heavy and bulky devices that increase metabolic cost and reduce energy efficiency, and existing solutions struggle to conform to an individual's physiology.  Conversely, pneumatically-powered exosuits are lighter, using inflatable, high-strength fabrics that can easily transform into stiff supporting structures via internal pressurisation.  Yet they have limited availability due to power supply issues.  Soft sensing technologies and computational algorithms have shown promise in controlled settings but face challenges being consistent in real-world applications.

The SWAG project aims to bring about smart, lightweight, human-assistive garments using high-strength, inflatable fabrics and sensing films.  It will introduce a new approach for wearable robots based on adaptability and human-centric design, providing personalised, real-time motion assistance for accurate and adaptive support, using optimised inflatable fabrics to cover and support entire body regions, not just individual joints.  The SWAG solution will also provide personalised, real-time motion assistance using a combination of distributed sensing, and control and user-intent prediction algorithms based on data-driven models. This ensures accurate and adaptive support for various movements.

SWAG technologies aim to create an exosuit that eliminates the need for tethered operation and supports the entire lower limb system.   The exosuit will adopt a multidisciplinary approach that combines soft design, embedded sensing, functional apparel, smart textile design, biomechanical modelling, materials science and distributed control with artificial intelligence at the centre.  The envisioned exosuits will be comfortable and virtually invisible under clothing. SWAG exosuits will be developed via four use cases: occupational assistance, daily mobility, fitness and immersive entertainment. 

TWI Hellas is responsible for project coordination, management-related activities, and leading communication and dissemination. They will also lead the development of the electronics used to control the soft exosuit, which aims to have high-level controllers directing the exosuit's motion based on global objectives, and low-level controllers locally manipulating individual joints. Biomechanical data will be sampled in real-time to inform SWAG's body dynamics and intent-tracking models.

Partners: Hellenic Mediterranean University (HMU), Bendabl, Heidelberg University, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, IUVO, Eurecat, Jožef Stefan Institute, University of Twente (UT), Roessingh Research and Development (RRD), University of Hertfordshire, Brunel Innovation Centre (BIC), Imperial College London and TWI Hellas.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme.