Robotic pants offer new hope for mobility

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BRISTOL, England (CBS) 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," Chilcott said.

She thought a wheelchair would be her only option until she found out about power 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," said Jonathan Rossiter, a robotics professor.

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 said.

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

"We have these components on the side here," Rossiter said.

That's where electrodes stimulate leg muscles to move. Researchers say the pants can boost leg strength and mobility by 10 percent.

They cost $2 million.

"I think maybe these are some of the most expensive pants in the world," Rossiter said.

But the price is expected to drop quickly.

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

That means Chilcott could be wearing them by 2025.

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

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