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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/I031723/1
Principal Investigator: Tyler, Professor N
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
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Department: Civil Environmental and Geomatic Eng
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 September 2011 Ends: 28 February 2013 Value (£): 101,763
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomechanics & Rehabilitation
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Summary on Grant Application Form
RELEASE is intended to explore the possibility of making an exoskeleton to support walking by people with locomotory difficulties with a driving ambition to make the technology invisible to casual observers yet liberating for the end user beyond the 'basic' issue of being able to walk. The project will start by gathering researchers from a variety of research fields - orthopaedics, neuroscience, mechanical engineering, nano technology, accessibility - and developing their collective appreciation of the challenges faced daily by people whose main means of locomotion is currently provided by substantial support such as walking frames, sticks, crutches or a wheelchair. This will be done by bringing the researchers together with people who currently experience these challenges and who can convey the impacts of these challenges on their quality of life, in a seminar activity based around the use of creativity-stimulation techniques including some of those learnt by ARG during its original C@H sessions. This seminar will determine (1) the quality of life desires of the potential end users of the technology, (2) the nature of the combined challenges for the researchers in the different researtch areas, (3) potential other research areas that might need to be incorporated in the team and (4) the overarching strategy for the rest of the RELEASE project.After this seminar, the PI will set tasks for the different research teams to bring back to the RELEASE team so that in the second collective session the details of the challenges can be discussed together in order to establish how progress might be made. The second collective session will take place about one month after the initial seminar. This will be followed by a sequence of further collective sessions over the 12 months of the project, in which challenges will be posed by the PI and responses brought back by the teams so that the overarching view of the feasibility of the technology can be developed by the team working together. Where the challenges need the researchers to unblock their normal creative channels, we will make use of a creativity facilitator to help open up further ways of ascertaining how to approach the problem. As the technical challenges become more apparent and detailed, the team will start to develop propsoals for more substantive research to explore ways in which the over-riding aim could be addressed. Towards the end of the 12 month period the collaborative sessions will turn to the development of these proposals so that future funding can be secured. End user groups will be involved in all of the collaborative sessions, especially where future work is being considered in order to ensure that the end aim of improving their quality of life is maintained.We will know the detailed nature of these challenges once the teams start working together, but as an illustration for this proposal, it is envisaged that we will need to determine the particular end user quality of life needs and setting these as the challenge to the technological developments, to convert current knowledge about biomechanics of walking into a form that could be 'conveyed' to a supportive exoskeleton-type technology, to explore the possibility of developing: a material that could be stiffened in response to a command, a means of controlling that stiffening across an expanse of that material so that it could be used to support movement as understood by the biomechanics issues, a means of making this material breathable so that it could be comfortable to wear, and a suitable energy system to enable all of the above to be achieved. We anticipate that these are great challenges, driven by the quality of life requirement, which will need further substantive research; RELEASE is about elucidating the questions that such substantive research will need to answer in order for such a possibility to be realised.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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