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History & Future of the Powered Exoskeleton Suit

Updated on April 22, 2011

Is this the Technology that will Change the World?

It's finally here. The powered robotic suits that we have seen so much in our comics and movies is fast becoming a reality.

This page will document that development of exoskeleton suit technology from the passive non-powered protective suits, to the more exciting powered exoskeleton suits that should bestow superhuman strength and endurance on us. Both military & civilian applications of this technology will be covered.

Powered Exoskeletons in Books, Movies, Games & More

HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) the Power Assist Suit from Japan

The Japanese are doing what they do best. The private industry namely the Japanese company Cyberdyne (Yes they must be "Terminator" fans too) are gearing up for mass production of their HAL (yes they know Asimov the writer too) their Power Assist Suit.

This type of power assist suits is actually fast becoming critical for the Japan's economy because of the rapidly aging population. Its hard to imagine but but roughly 1 in 4 Japanese is now above 60 years old. To maintain their productivity the Japanese seems to be "betting the farm" on humanoid robotics and power assist devices for seniors. Let's hope the accelerating pace of technology will counter effects of the rapid aging population.

It is not stated how powerful the Power Assist really is but from the video you can see the young man wearing HAL and picking up an old man effortlessly from his bed. The current specifications of 2 hours 40min of continuous operation is barely usable but it can only get better with improvements in battery technologies. Checkout more details at the Cyberdyne Inc. webpage on HAL.

Videos on Powered Exoskeleton Suits & More

These videos ranges from the HAL power assist suits (reported to be gearing for mass production), to the Raytheon's XOS 2 Powered Exoskeleton Military prototype (it currently still needs to the tether to an external power supply). 

Japan's HAL Robot Suit

BLEEX Exoskeleton Carrier Prototype

Lockheed's HULC Exoskeleton

Raytheon's XOS 2 Powered Exoskeleton Military Prototype

"Dragonskin" Protect against AK47 Rounds

Airbag Protective Suit

Wearable Motorcyle Prototype

Are We are all Cyborgs?

Here's an interesting premise from Amber Case. She suggest and illustrates that with our external portable devices like smart phones  and portable laptops we are essentially more than human. In essence these "external brains" enhances our cognitive, knowledge through "personal assistant" type applications and access to large repositories of information.

Breakthrough Research in Brain Machine Interface (BMI)

One of the most exciting and cutting edge research is in Brain Machine Interfaces (BMI).

Most powered exoskeleton systems that have been developed or are currently in development either try to sense the magnitude and direction of the force exerted by our muscles and amplifies them, or tries to sense the electrical signals that are sent to our muscle groups like the HAL system.

The exciting part about a Brain Machine Interface is that it taps the signals directed from the brain. Thus in theory the user can in theory take control of any machine system and direct it by willing it so. The great thing about this is that it can help people with spinal injuries or even with healthy minds who are locked into unresponsive bodies.

Of course this technology is still in the early stages of development. But with time this technology would be able to unlock tantalising possibilities when used to control powered exoskeleton systems.

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