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MIT Exoskeleton Shoulders The Weight For You

MIT exoskeleton research is walking steadfastly forward; their latest version can make a 80 pound backpack feel like just 16 pounds to the wearer.


(MIT exoskeleton full view)

MIT's exoskeleton is unique in that it uses only 2 watts of power, relying on a network of springs and dampers to transfer most of the load to the ground. As you can see in the picture [above], shoulder straps, waist belt, thigh cuffs and a shoe connection attach to the wearer.

MIT will continue working on the exoskeleton; the device does alter the gait of the user, and tests show that the user increases their oxygen intake by about ten percent due to the added load. However, the MIT exoskeleton is much lighter than the BLEEX (Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton) developed in 2004, which weighed one hundred pounds by itself due to its 3000 wat internal combustion engine power plant. The HAL-5 robot suit offers arm strength enhancement as well as leg strength enhancement; the HAL-5 suit was used by an alpine mountaineer to carry a quadriplegic to the summit of a Swiss peak in 2006 (see HAL-5 Exoskeleton To Carry Mountain Climber).


(MIT exoskeleton lower leg detail view)

Robotic exoskeletons have played a part in science fiction stories for many years. In his 1968 novel A Specter is Haunting Texas, science fiction writer Fritz Leiber describes specialized exoskeletons used to help human beings who grew up under microgravity conditions survive on the Earth's surface:

This truly magnificient, romantically handsome, rather lean man was standing on two corrugated-soled titanium footplates. From the outer edge of each rose a narrow titanium T-beam that followed the line of his leg, with a joint (locked now) at the knee, up to another joint with a titanium pelvic girdle and shallow belly support. From the back of this girdle a T-spine rose to support a shoulder yoke and rib cage, all of the same metal. The rib cage was artistically slotted to save weight, so that curving strips followed the line of each of his very prominent ribs.

...The motors were controlled by myoelectric impulses from his ghost muscles transmitted by sensitive pickups buried in the foam-padded bands.
(Read more about the titanium exoskeleton)

Via MIT exoskeleton.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/22/2007)

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