Warrior Web Exoskeleton For Soldiers Undergo Tests
Warrior Web soft exoskeletons are being tested by DARPA; the intent is to see if a lightweight, conformal under-suit offering some battery power can take some of the load off of soldiers carrying heavy loads.
(DARPA warrior web)
The amount of equipment and gear carried by today’s dismounted warfighter can exceed 100 pounds, as troops conduct patrols for extended periods over rugged and hilly terrain. The added weight while bending, running, squatting, jumping and crawling in a tactical environment increases the risk of musculoskeletal injury, particularly on vulnerable areas such as ankles, knees and lumbar spine. Increased load weight also causes increase in physical fatigue, which further decreases the body’s ability to perform warfighter tasks and protect against both acute and chronic injury.
The Warrior Web program seeks to develop the technologies required to prevent and reduce musculoskeletal injuries caused by dynamic events typically found in the warfighter’s environment. The ultimate program goal is a lightweight, conformal under-suit that is transparent to the user (like a diver’s wetsuit). The suit seeks to employ a system (or web) of closed-loop controlled actuation, transmission, and functional structures that protect injury prone areas, focusing on the soft tissues that connect and interface with the skeletal system. Other novel technologies that prevent, reduce, ambulate, and assist with healing of acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries are also being sought.
In addition to direct injury mitigation, Warrior Web will have the capacity to augment positive work done by the muscles, to reduce the physical burden, by leveraging the web structure to impart joint torque at the ankle, knee, and hip joints. The suit seeks to reduce the metabolic cost of carrying a typical assault load, as well as compensate for the weight of the suit itself, while consuming no more than 100 Watts of electric power from the battery source.
Science fiction authors pioneered the thinking behind exoskeletons. In his 1959 novel Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein describes what he calls "powered armor"; it works like this:
Here's how it works, minus the diagrams. The inside of the suit is a mass of pressure receptors, hundreds of them. You push with the heel of your hand; the suit feels it, amplifies it, pushes with you to take the pressure off the receptors that gave the order to push.
(Read more at powered suit)
As Heinlein put it - "The real genius in the design is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."