Canadian military hopes a bionic knee brace will give soldiers a boost
It sounds like something right out of science fiction, using bionic technology to enhance a soldier’s ability.
But it just might become fact for Canadian soldiers, thanks to a high-tech take on an old idea – a spring.
Spring Loaded Technology is a Halifax-based company that has developed a state-of-the-art, military-grade knee brace with a special liquid spring technology built into the hinge. The spring stores energy when the knee flexes and releases it when the leg is extended. (Picture someone giving you a boost when you straighten up from a squat.)
The company says the light-weight, carbon fibre braces can help lift up to 100 pounds of body weight when worn on both knees.
Called the Upshot, the $5,100 knee brace is designed to optimize performance, reduce fatigue, and help prevent injuries. “This is not a new idea. People have had this idea for a really long time,” says Spring Loaded Technology CEO, Chris Cowper-Smith. “The challenge has been miniaturizing it and making it compact and powerful."
The company won a $1-million contract to supply the military with braces for testing. They’ve delivered the first 60, with another 130 on the way.
For its part, the military is looking for a way to help soldiers deal with backpacks and equipment that, thanks to other new technologies, have become heavier over time. “Anything that could assist in lightening their load and reducing fatigue is going to be welcomed by the army,” says Maj. Edward Jun, the man in charge of the testing program.
The first group of military personnel to receive the braces will wear them during “low level” activities for the next few weeks then provide feedback to the company. Military field testing will follow. The first impression appears to be that, yes, the Upshot provides a noticeable boost, but it’s going to take a little getting used to. “Especially with the spring compression,” says Capt. Marek Serocki. “It’s giving me a lot more, so I’m like a deer walking for the first time.”
Spring Loaded Technology has also designed a commercial version of the Upshot, called the Levitation, due to be shipped in September, 2016. Retail price: $2,380.