Giving joggers a new reason to rise at 5 a.m. for the pre-work run, researchers at Japan's Tsukuba University are hard at work on a motorized knee kit, which promises to enhance human knee function. The kit is attached to the side of the leg around the knee and is said to deliver a 30% decrease in the amount of muscle power used. The small motor assists in flexing, taking some of the responsibility from the knee.
Unfortunately, the kit also weighs 11 pounds, so it's likely that the power increase will be at least partly offset by the imposition of dragging around an extra eleven pounds on the body. In addition to the knee hardware, a control unit and battery are stored in a backpack, so this thing promises to be a bit of an uncomfortable clunker.
Surprisingly, the motorized knee is not designed for medical or physical rehab purposes, but is aimed at healthy runners and joggers who want to enjoy increased efficiency. I'd imagine they'll really have to love jogging to spend whatever exorbitant price this bulky system will cost. Plans are to make it market-ready within three years.
This reminds me a little of Ski Mojos, a product that I recently wrote about. That device doesn't include a motor or electrical operation, but uses a spring to limit impact on the knees. It delives similar numbers in terms of taking about a third of the pressure off the knees and is for skiing as opposed to running.
While this technology is certainly cool, I think I'll stick to jogging the old-fashioned way-- rolling out of bed at 9 a.m. and watching those miserable but motivated folks run by my front porch while sipping a cup of Colombian.
Crunch Gear via Ubergizmo