MUSE is a research project funded by the European Research Council awarded to Leonardo Cappello through the ERC Starting Grant 2023 funding scheme. Pursued in the Textile Robotics Lab, the project aims to develop and clinically evaluate an unprecedented osseointegrated assistive exosuit to enhance upper limb motion through the integration of cutting-edge actuation technologies, seamless human-machine interfaces, and groundbreaking sensory feedback strategies, with the ultimate goal of empowering individuals affected by sensorimotor impairments.
People that suffer from severe muscle weakness of the (upper) limb following neurological disorders still struggle to find assistive technologies able to help them in their daily life. The most advanced technologies consist of wearable exoskeletons, either rigid or soft, that promise to support the wearer during daily living. Despite their great potential, the widespread adoption of exoskeletons where they are most needed – i.e., for continuous daily home assistance – is prevented by several flaws: limited efficiency, controllability, and lack of reliable ways to connect them to the user.
MUSE (MusculoSkeletal Expansion) abandons the paradigm of wearing an exoskeleton to develop and clinically assess soft external muscles (exomuscles) intimately connected and naturally controlled by the user. The core objective is to develop innovative efficient exomuscles to support people with severe muscle weakness. With a solid experience in soft robotics and innovative materials, the project will develop them by combining the extreme portability of pneumatic actuators made of textiles with the energy efficiency and promptness of non-linear elastic structures. They will be reliably connected to the user through fixtures implanted on the bones, which will grant the excellent mechanical stability of osseointegration, widely adopted in dental prosthetics and increasingly explored in limb prosthetics, but still unexplored in exoskeletons.
This approach will unlock the potential of eliciting osseoperception, i.e., sensory feedback – necessary to control motion – through bone conduction. If successful, MUSE will benefit all those in need of sensorimotor augmentation, as it can be extended to all kinds of exoskeletons (from upper to lower limbs, from assistive to augmenting devices). Moreover, since MUSE connects the inner body to the external world, it may be the cornerstone to build a bidirectional gateway between them, bridging the human and the machine to a more and more intimate level.
FUNDER: ERC - European Research Council
GRANT NO.: 101116249
FUNDING: 1.5 M€
COORDINATOR: Leonardo Cappello