Wednesday October 18th 2017

CyBorg Alert! Human Exoskeletons & Power Loaders Coming Soon

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Robotics has come pretty far over the last decade and we are starting to see more science fiction appearing as science reality. We recently posted a video on a dancing and singing robot that is being billed the first robotic pop star. Don’t be too alarmed though. Many of the machines shown at these types of shows are just beefed up versions of animatronics that you see at major theme parks. Others have programmed responses based upon context questions. Ultimately though, you still won’t find any of the self aware machines that are staples in science fiction.

The really fascinating side of robotics is not what we see in pop-culture, but in how we can use our continually evolving understanding to achieve a symbiotic relationship of man and machine. No – not a cyborg or a necessity like an artificial limb, just an enhanced way of performing tasks.

Remember the robotic power loader used by Ripley in Aliens or the body armor used by Robocop? Well they’re no longer Science Fiction. There have been several interesting human exoskeletons revealed over the past 4 years that have come pretty far this year.

Japan based Active Link Co. plucked the power loader concept straight out of Aliens and hope to have this piece of technology in market usage/testing by 2015.

In 2007, Raytheon Sarcos announced an Exoskeleton with military applications. Its second-generation exoskeleton (XOS 2), was highlighted as one of the Best Inventions of 2010 by Time Magazine just this month.

Raytheon Sarcos’ biggest competitor is UC Berkeley/Lockheed-Martin. In 2009 UC Berkeley/Lockheed-Martin announced that they had also designed a power lifting exoskeleton for the armed services. The “HULC” or Human Universal Load Carrier, weighs a little above 53 pounds, but the battery required almost adds another 80 or so pounds to the suit. Development has steadily continued and the suits are currently being laboratory and field tested as of this October 2010.

In all of the above cases, the mechanical frame is attached to a user’s limbs, and provides them with superhuman strength, regardless of their size. The suits transfer the weight of heavy loads from the leg braces and joint servos directly to the ground without the wearer of the unit feeling the strain. This design is also important because the wearer of the exoskeleton does not feel the weight of the actual mechanized device.

Keep in mind the military frames are just exoskeletons, the intention is to have HALO type suits attached to these frames for combat and defense.

While these suits are markedly different from the load lifters seen in the “Aliens” or the protagonist of the “RoboCop” movies, it is very likely that as we advance further in our understanding of technology we will see more innovations such as these not only on the battlefield but possibly walking down the street of your neighborhood one day.

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