NewsPositively Hampton Roads


‘The right trousers’ How a pair of ‘power pants’ could help people with mobility issues

Posted at 8:42 PM, Nov 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-09 23:22:31-05

For Cheryl Chilcott, walking on her own has been a challenge since birth.

''I can walk a bit, but I'm always holding onto furniture or always looking for the next place to sit down or take a rest," said Chilcott.

She thought a wheelchair would be her only option...until she found out about a special pair of pants.

Scientists say robotic technology stitched into the seams is a breakthrough for millions who need help to move. 

''For those people that don't have much muscle function, the pants will give them a lot of power, that's the goal," robotics professor Jonathan Rossiter.

Engineers at England's University of Bristol found inspiration from the "Wallace and Gromit" film "The Wrong Trousers."

"So it's very natural for us to call ours not the wrong trousers, but the RIGHT trousers," Rossiter.

Bubbles are sewn down the thighs of the pants. They act as extra muscles, expanding with air to help you stand or contracting to help you sit.

''We have these components on the side here," Rossiter said, gesturing to where electrodes stimulate leg muscles to move.

Researchers say the pants can boost leg strength and mobility by 10 percent.

One drawback? The pants come at a hefty $2 million. Rossiter believes they may be some of the most expensive pants in the world.

But the price is expected to drop quickly.

''Our goal is to make to make these, within seven to 10 years, cheap enough that the average person can go into a store, could buy them and could use them," the professor said.

That means Chilcott could be wearing them by the year 2025.

''It will make a big difference to a lot of people," Chilcott said.

Researchers say the "right trousers" are a huge step in keeping people moving.