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Steve Collins / Carnegie Mellon University

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a way to tune an exoskeleton to a person's unique body structure and movements, allowing them to spend significantly less energy while walking in the device.

Why it's needed: Exoskeletons promise to help people lift heavy objects or run farther but so far have been one-size-fits-all, an approach that can require users to expend more energy as the body adjusts, compensates and otherwise tries to make the prosthetic device work.

What they did: 11 people wearing ankle exoskeletons equipped with sensors walked on a treadmill while engineers measured how much energy they expended and algorithms gathered data about how each ankle rotated, and the timing of how it rose and fell during walking. The personalized exoskeletons were able to identify which ankle movements needed to be better supported so that the person could expend less energy as they walked. Overall, the volunteers in the study experienced a 24% reduction in the amount of energy they used during walking with the personalized exoskeletons around their ankles.

What's next: It will be awhile before we all have personalized exoskeletons, but this study shows how flexible materials combined with artificial intelligence systems can be used to tailor the devices. The next big advance will likely come from refined 3D printing that could be used to print customized systems.

Go deeper

Updated 36 mins ago - Health

U.K. first nation to clear Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

A health care worker during the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial by the Pfizer and BioNTech in Ankara, Turkey, in October. Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it's approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, which "will be made available across the U.K. from next week."

Why it matters: The U.K. has beaten the U.S. to become the first Western country to give emergency approval for a vaccine against a virus that's killed nearly 1.5 million people globally.

3 hours ago - World

NYT: Biden won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President-elect Joe Biden during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.

Trump threatens to veto Defense spending bill over social media shield

Photo: Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Tuesday a threat to veto a must-pass end-of-year $740 billion bill defense-spending authorization bill unless Congress repeals a federal law that protects social media sites from legal liability.

Why it matters: Trump's attempt to get Congress to end the tech industry protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the latest escalation in his war on tech giants over what he and some other Republicans perceive as bias against conservatives.

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