This paper presents a wearable upper body suit designed to assist in human load carriage. The two functions of the suit are: (i) load distribution between the shoulders and the waist, and (ii) reduction of the dynamic load on the waist during walking. These are achieved through two cable driven modules — passive and active — within a custom fitted shirt integrated with motion/force sensors, actuators, and a real time controller. The load distribution between the shoulders and the waist is achieved through the load bearing columns connecting the shoulder pads and the waist belt whose load bearing capacity is modulated by a nominal cable tension in the passive module via a ratchet mechanism. The dynamic load is reduced in addition in the active module by modulating the cable tension via external actuator. Mathematical model of the system is presented and a state feedback controller is designed. Simulation study was performed to investigate the system response under different disturbance conditions as a result of vertical motion of the waist during human walking. Experiment evaluation of the suit was performed with a subject walking on a treadmill while carrying a backpack load. The results show that the developed suit can transfer the load from the shoulders to the waist as well as reduce the dynamic load induced during human walking. This can potentially reduce the energy expenditure and the risk of musculoskeletal injuries associated with human load carriage.

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